How to manage employee healthcare

When it comes to employee health, HR is playing an increasingly large role

First published on Thursday, Jun 25, 2020

Last updated on Friday, Jun 14, 2024

It makes sense when you think about it: healthy employees are absent less often, they’re likely to perform better, and an effective healthcare programme should increase job satisfaction too.

At the same time, HR shouldn’t be invasive about workers’ health. By weighing up the options for managing employee healthcare, you can find the right balance for your organisation.

Why support employee healthcare?

Making the case for introducing healthcare programmes can be difficult with today’s tight budgets, as illustrated by research that shows 28% of HR practitioners were hoping to cut healthcare costs in 2013 (Imperial College Business School, 2013).

Direct return on investment isn’t easy to pin down, but the indirect benefits are many.

Managing health means managing absence

Absence might be the biggest reason to take employee healthcare seriously. Absence costs employers over £600 per employee per year (CIPD 2014), and it’s an issue many organisations want to tackle. Employees in good health are less likely to go off sick.

Prevent accidents

Another sum most organisations would like to reduce is the cost of injuries and ill health from working conditions, which the HSE estimated was £14.3 billion in 2014/15. Making the workplace healthier and safer can be a key element in employee healthcare.

Improve morale, performance, and retention

There are also several fuzzier, but still valuable, benefits of managing healthcare. When employees know you care about their health and support them to achieve greater wellbeing, job satisfaction and performance are likely to increase.

How can HR manage employee healthcare?

The following actions can form the basis of employee healthcare management at your organisation.

Offer healthcare benefits

Including private healthcare in your employee benefits package is a costly but highly-valued way to manage healthcare. A recent study of employee benefits reported 50% of employees would find private medical insurance personally valuable, compared to only 41% for workplace pensions (Capita 2013).

Offering private healthcare could therefore have additional benefits for recruitment and retention.

Review and improve workplace safety

Workplace safety has a big role to play in employee healthcare. If accidents are an issue at your organisation, consider:

  • Reviewing your company health and safety policy
  • Recording and monitoring accident data, and set goals for improvement
  • Evaluating the design of your workplace, and your approach to housekeeping

Promote a healthy lifestyle

A major US greeting card company now pays bonuses to staff who stay trim and look after their cholesterol. A less invasive approach might involve organising outdoor company activities and offering healthy meal options for interested employees.

Take action to reduce stress in the workplace

Stress-related absence increased within two fifths of UK companies in 2014 (CIPD 2014). Effective stress-reducing actions include:

  • Acknowledging that employee stress is a valid problem
  • Making help available to employees, such as counselling or financial advice

Engaging an occupational health advisor

Whether you hire a full-time occupational health professional or outsource the service, having a qualified advisor can help with specific health issues and in promoting an overall wellbeing programme.

Specifically, occupational health can help with:

  • Arranging preventative treatment to cut ill-health and absence
  • Pre-employment medicals that identify problem issues
  • Support for successful returns to work for long-term sick employees
  • Improvements to workplace health and safety

External healthcare providers can also provide expert advice when planning and implementing healthcare programmes — 39% of HR professionals rely on them for this purpose (Willis PMI, 2013).

Janine Lennon

Head of Payroll Services

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