Is it enough to operate legally?
This April sees the introduction of more stringent requirements around ‘day one’ statements of employment particulars (including sick pay & benefit entitlements). Carl Laidler, Director of Wellbeing at Health Shield Friendly Society, argues that, in order to ensure compliance, trust, reputation, businesses need to ensure a culture of organisational wellbeing. It’s no longer enough to simply meet regulatory requirements.
The days when an organisation could ignore or pass the buck on employee health and wellbeing are over. Legislation coming into force this year will require companies to be far more transparent about their employment terms from day one, and new rules mean large companies now have to publicly report on how ‘employee voice’ fits in to their corporate governance arrangements. While some organisations will see this as a box-ticking exercise, the smart ones will view it as an opportunity to improve employee engagement and ensure a culture of organisational wellbeing from the day a new employee joins.
The 2017 Taylor Review demonstrated that high levels of employee engagement improves organisational performance and boosts productivity. Following the publication of the Good Work Plan, the government’s response to the review, the Employment Rights (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 was introduced. A key part of this legislation is that, from April 2020, employers will be mandated to provide all new joiners with a written statement of terms from day one of the working relationship, covering aspects such as sick pay and benefit entitlements.
Added to this, the Companies (Miscellaneous Reporting) Regulations 2018, which came into force at the start of this year, has brought in a number of significant changes which will enable both external and internal stakeholders to hold organisations to account over their level of employee engagement. Incorporated organisations with more than 250 employees will be required to report on their corporate governance arrangements and on how their directors take employee and other stakeholder interests into account.
It’s clear that the government wants firms to be more transparent and take more ownership of the wellbeing of their employees. While this is a positive move, it’s not enough for companies to be forced to take these steps and those that do so reluctantly will be caught out. With the growth of social media channels such as Glassdoor and LinkedIn, it’s never been easier for people to look past the shop window of an organisation and see what it’s really like inside. This means those companies that have an inauthentic and lacklustre approach to the health and wellbeing of their employees can be far more easily identified. As the latest Edelman annual trust survey reveals, people are looking to company leaders – the CEOs – to lead on positive change. Almost three quarters (74%) of the general public believe CEOs should take the lead on change rather than waiting for government to impose it[i].
Merely meeting regulatory requirements is no longer sufficient – they have to be exceeded to encourage truly holistic employee wellbeing.
Benefits of workplace wellbeing
A plethora of research shows that encouraging workplace wellbeing improves employee engagement, reduces absenteeism and presenteeism and boosts productivity. Forward-thinking organisations are embracing preventative wellbeing and putting in place the longer-term strategic approach that’s needed to fully realise the opportunity.
A company’s health and wellbeing provision has a big impact on recruitment and retention as well. A recent Health Shield survey revealed that while pay is still the biggest reason for someone deciding to join an organisation, four fifths (81%) of workers said health and wellbeing support is important to them when looking for a new job[ii].
So, wellbeing in the workplace is an important factor both in terms of day-to-day productivity and engagement and also in encouraging top talent to join and stay at an organisation. With the statement of employment particulars now being required from day one, it therefore makes sense for businesses to also make health and wellbeing services available for all employees from the first day of their employment, rather than putting them in place once a health issue occurs or only offering them to senior members of staff.
Cost is of course a major factor in stopping companies, especially smaller ones, from adopting such an approach. The Health Shield survey also revealed that almost half (48%) of SMEs said cost was the main reason for not implementing broader health and wellbeing support. This may be because employers aren’t seeing the return on investment in relation to these types of initiatives.
Getting in early
That’s why it’s crucial for companies to identify the needs of employees as soon as they join, and getting employees to fill out a new starter health questionnaire can be an important first step. This ensures an employee’s health and wellbeing requirements are identified before they start, enabling better accommodation of their particular needs from day one as well as making it easier to evaluate and manage going forward.
By incorporating health assessments from day one, not only does it help an organisation put in place preventative actions from the outset, it also improves employee engagement and makes a new starter more easily integrate with the culture of the organisation.
The trajectory of organisational wellbeing is heading towards more transparency and accountability. To avoid being exposed, firms should get a head start on understanding the health needs of employees by introducing day one health assessments. It can be the catalyst for healthier, happier and more productive staff in the long term.
[i] 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, January 2020.
[ii] Research carried out online by Opinium Research on behalf of Health Shield between 11 and 16 October 2019, among 1,033 SME employees and 515 SME employers.
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