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March 18, 2024

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Almost half of UK manufacturing employers have increased spending on workforce health and wellbeing

Almost half of UK manufacturing employers have increased spending on workforce health and wellbeing – and it’s having a positive impact.

Welding fumesFigures from the last year have revealed 45% of companies have increased their investment in wellbeing initiatives, 49% have maintained the level of investment and the amount companies are investing per person has also increased – with 33% now investing more than £100 per employee.

Surveys by Make UK also revealed UK companies have seen an improvement in staff retention as a result.

The average days lost to absence fell to 4.7 in 2023 compared to 5.6 in 2022.

Jamie Cater, Senior Employment Policy Manager at Make UK, said it showed an increased investment in wellbeing can directly reduce absence and retain staff. He said: “While manufacturers still face a challenging environment – ongoing shortages of technical skills, rising employment costs and an ageing workforce – recruitment and retention pressures have eased in the last few months.

“Employers are seeing the benefits in particular of increased investment in employee health and wellbeing, and the Government has an opportunity to support businesses to do more of this by expanding tax relief on a range of Occupational Health services to help people stay healthy and productive at work.”

Increasing productivity 

The figures were collected in two surveys published by Make UK on Sickness Absence and Labour Turnover across manufacturing.

It showed the main cause of long-term absence is physical health (81%) while long-term mental health is the cause of a third of absence.

Four in ten companies who increased their investment in health and wellbeing saw staff retention rise and absence fall by a quarter – while 18% reported increased productivity.

Welfare initiatives such as employee assistance programmes were the most popular measure offered by companies, followed by counselling services and other therapies.

Other measures provided by companies to improve workforce satisfaction and reduce absence included free eye tests and health screening, private medical insurance, free flu vaccinations, advice on healthy eating and lifestyles, alongside gym subsidies.

The Labour Turnover survey revealed that, after reaching a historically high level in 2022, turnover in manufacturing reduced significantly in 2023, down from 20% to 16% – the lowest since 2018.

But Make UK said despite a lower number of live vacancies in the manufacturing sector, shorter recruitment lead times, and fewer barriers to successful recruitment – the industry still has significant challenges.

Seeking higher pay and opportunities for progression remain the most popular reasons for staff leaving manufacturing businesses – and nearly half of employers have seen staff leave due to retirement in the last twelve months.

A guide for managers: Supporting employee wellbeing

This guide, written by Heather Beach, Founder of The Healthy Work Company, serves as a go-to resource to help managers support team members who may be experiencing stress or struggling with their mental health, including warning signs, duty of care and top tips.

Wellbeing Conversations for Managers

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