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A journalist with 13 years of experience on trade publications covering construction, local government, property, pubs, and transport.
February 9, 2018

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Third of workers believe firms should pay them to stay healthy

A third of UK workers believe their bosses should pay them for keeping healthy, research has revealed.

The recent study of almost 3,000 workers, undertaken by risk management consultants Willis Towers Watson (WTW),  revealed 34% of employees would only participate in a company health initiative if there was a financial incentive to do so – up from 26% in 2013.

So-called ‘wellness payments’ from firms currently allow employees to spend cash on keeping healthy – such as health screenings, physiotherapy treatment, gym and sports club membership, or even spa days.

The findings show current engagement in wellbeing initiatives is failing though, as 70% of workers said such schemes do not meet their needs.

Not resonating with employees

Mike Blake, wellbeing lead for Willis Towers Watson, said: “The figures suggest that despite employers increasing their focus on health and wellbeing, existing schemes are not resonating with employees and, as a result, many feel they need extra motivation to participate, in the shape of financial incentives.

“Having a healthy workforce does, of course, greatly benefit employers, as it leads to lower levels of sickness absence, productivity loss and employee turnover, but employees reap the rewards of living healthier lives too.

“Taking care of health and worker wellbeing should be a shared priority of both employee and employer, not seen as additional workload that workers should be compensated for. Companies who struggle to engage with their employees would be wise to review their current health and wellbeing initiatives, so that they are truly valued by employees and meet their needs and personal health goals.

Financial incentives

The research also found 33% of firms in the next 3 years will have a direct financial incentives strategy for encouraging healthy behaviours – such as smoking cessation, weight management or increasing exercise levels. This is from 12% currently.

Although this is a significant rise on the current 12% offering financial incentives, Blake advises companies to be cautious about such an approach.

“It is understandable that companies – particularly those who are frustrated at a lack of engagement – are tempted to offer financial incentives to their employees. But this can be a knee jerk response to problems that may require deeper answers.

“Often a more sustainable solution is to ask more searching questions about the programmes and initiatives that are already in place, for example: are they joined up; do they connect to employees’ wants and needs; and are they well communicated?”

Losing behavioural influence

Blake suggested wearable technology subsidies, promoting mediation apps and health ‘league tables’ as options.

He concluded: “Very often companies experience an initial upsurge in engagement when they introduce new initiatives or wellness programmes, but the experience shows that this can be short-lived as people get used to them over time and they lose their behavioural influence.

“Employers need to plan for this by attracting employees’ attention and keeping them motivated. Communication is key in achieving this.  Regular, effective messaging can help reinforce the personal benefits of participation and lower the risk of complacency or disengagement.”

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2 years ago

I’ve encountered companies which supposedly offer employees various health improvement schemes, however the same companies enforced very rigorous penalties on their employees for sickness and absenteeism. An example of this was a chap who developed cancer and subsequently off work for a number of months then returned to work only to suffer a heart attack and few months after returning to work. Upon his return he was summoned in front of HR and asked if he intended taking any further time off and perhaps consider alternative employment outside of the company.

Stephen Durham
Stephen Durham
2 years ago

“A third of employees” – that’s a small minority and another bit of fake news then. Employees have a contractual duty to present themselves to daily work in a reasonable state of fitness and health to undertake their job, (including eyesight) for which they receive remuneration. End of story. It is not the responsibility of the employer to ensure employees are healthy or fit, unless the work itself may have an adverse effect, (COSHH, HAVS etc) in which case mandatory health surveillance is necessary. Many employers see the benefit of offering employees incentives to maintain their health as it potentially… Read more »

2 years ago

Bravo Stephen for speaking common sense. Why is it always someone else’s responsibility for maintaining health and fitness, but never the individuals? Has our society become so weak that people cannot see the wood for the trees? Health is a personal responsibility, through dietary choices, the amount of alcohol we drink, smoking and recreational drug use and maintaining an active lifestyle. I am fed up of bleeding hearts who bleat on about the pressures of life causing unhealthy lifestyle choices, no time to exercise or cook meals and so needing to get take-aways or packaged and processed (ergo – microwavable)… Read more »