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Less than half of UK employers have a wellbeing strategy in place

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40% of employers plan to focus on access to wellbeing treatment, despite ranking it ‘least important’ 12 months ago 

Aon plc, a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions, has released research which provides an in-depth look at the health and wellbeing provisions offered by employers across the UK.

According to Aon’s UK Benefits & Trends Survey, only 44% of employers have a formal wellbeing strategy, despite significant investment in health and benefits by employers. In addition, 22% said they did not intend to have a strategy within the next 12-18 months.

  • Only 44% of UK employers have a comprehensive wellbeing strategy
  • Less than 10% of employers actively measure return on investment (ROI) from their wellbeing programmes, with 32% saying it is not important
  • 70% of employers do not have a designated budget for health and wellness
  • Almost 40% of employers plan to focus on access to treatment looking forward, despite ranking it ‘least important’ 12 months ago

Mark Witte, head of health and risk consulting, Health Solutions UK at Aon, said:

“The fact that less than half of the employers we surveyed have a comprehensive wellbeing strategy in place is perhaps one of the key observations from this year’s survey. There is no shortage of investment in health and benefits generally, nor is there a lack of focus on specific support; however, overall, wellbeing activity all too often lacks strategic focus.

“In light of COVID-19, it is encouraging to see that a third of respondents said they expected to make a greater investment in employee health in 2021. Research shows, however, that investment in services and benefits alone will not generate required outcomes. Our Rising Resilient study showed that resilience triples when employers adopt a well-rounded health and wellbeing programme supporting physical, social, emotional, financial and career needs. It’s therefore encouraging to see that 33% of respondents intended to have a formalised health and wellbeing strategy in place in the next 12-18 months.”

The survey also showed that only 9% of employers are actively measuring the return on investment from their wellbeing programmes, despite it being a crucial way to assess and tailor them to their employees’ needs. According to Aon, this can make it harder to justify investment and secure maximum value, and may explain why 70% of employers do not have a designated budget for health and wellness.

Of the employers that have a well-rounded strategy, 55% are using employee engagement surveys to drive their health and wellbeing programmes. These have overtaken more traditional markers such as Employee Assistance Programme utilisation and absence data as the main metric for informing employers’ strategies.

Wellbeing has also moved up the corporate agenda, with more than half of employers (56%) already having or planning to have Board-level sponsorship for their wellbeing initiative. According to Aon, this shows the level of importance placed on wellbeing and what it can offer organisations in terms of improved health, engagement and productivity.

Looking ahead, employers plan to focus their 2021 healthcare spend on education and prevention, with 78% of respondents looking to focus on this area. There has, however, been a notable shift in the number of employers looking to provide access to treatment, which ranked least important 12 months ago but is now second in importance, with 39% of employers planning to focus on this offering.

The survey also illustrated the wellbeing pillars employers see as priorities.

  • Most employers (76%) now have emotional/mental wellbeing strategies in place, which is up 8 percentage points from 2020 (68%). Nearly two thirds (59%) of employers have a specific strategy in place for mental health.
  • When it comes to financial wellbeing, 41% of employers have a strategy in place, despite 61% of employers agreeing that they are responsible for influencing employee financial wellbeing. The number of employers with ‘no plans’ to implement financial wellbeing solutions has increased from 30% in 2020 to 39% in 2021.
  • Career and Social wellbeing also stayed lower on the agenda, with only 32% and 30% of employers, respectively, having defined strategies in place. These have changed in the last year: Career wellbeing has lowered as an employer priority – 36% of employers had a defined strategy last year – yet Social wellbeing has risen by 2 percentage points, up from 28% in 2020.
  • Sixty-one percent of employers have a defined strategy in place for employee physical health, a marginal decrease from 65% in 2020.

Witte added:

“Having a robust wellbeing strategy in place will contribute to employee resilience, which we can all agree is a valuable asset to have now. But as our survey highlights, it is important for employers to ensure that their strategy is inclusive of all five pillars of wellbeing; Emotional and Mental, Physical, Financial, Career and Social. There is a danger that the impact of the pandemic means employers focus the majority of their efforts on emotional and mental initiatives, and whilst this is vitally important, we urge employers to ensure the other pillars of wellbeing are not forgotten.

“The events of the past 12 months have elevated the importance of employee health as a business-critical issue. This year will undoubtedly see continued focus on wellbeing activity with a greater demand for data and insight to help not just strategy design, but also better measure value and return on investment.”

Methodology: Aon surveyed 332 HR, employee benefit and reward specialists across a range of industry sectors for its 11th Aon UK Benefits and Trends Survey 2021. Forty-five percent of respondents stated they employ more than 1,001 people, 41% employ between 101 and 1,000 people and 14% employ fewer than 100. Seventy-three percent of respondents have an international interest, described as employing people in other countries.

Employee mental health tops the challenges facing organisations in 2021 

29th Jan 2021: Leading online training provider, @iHASCO, conducted a survey of over 400 Health & Safety, HR and Training professionals, to gain a greater insight into the biggest challenges and future issues facing organisations, surrounding COVID-19 and workplace training. 

The research uncovered some of the common workplace trends and challenges, across a broad range of industries including education, care, construction, manufacturing as well as many private sector businesses.

The survey was split into 3 categories:

  1. Impact of COVID-19
  2. Employee Health & Safety, and
  3. Workplace training

1. Impact of COVID-19

The impact of COVID-19 has been far reaching, with a much greater number of businesses suffering a negative impact rather than a positive one, as a result of the pandemic. Longer term planning has been impossible for organisations as a result of lockdowns and forced closures, as well as having a crippling effect on company finances.

The pressures put on businesses have been catastrophic for some, and become a fight for survival. 60.8% of respondents say COVID-19 has negatively affected their business in some way. Businesses have had a lot to think about, not only keeping up with the latest government announcements but also having to adapt plans and respond to the needs of their employees and customers.

For some companies (22.8%) this has resulted in an increase/drastic increase in business. However for just under half the respondents it has meant a decrease/drastic decrease in business. 

Around half of the respondents found staff absences a particular challenge throughout the pandemic and 39.6% found reopening after the first lockdown particularly tough. With the government’s COVID-secure guidelines there were a lot of considerations for businesses in keeping their staff and customers safe. Other common challenges included staff training (38.2%) and setting up remote workers (33.5%). 

Looking ahead to a new year, staff mental health and wellbeing topped the challenges for employers for 2021 for 53.6% of the respondents. Staff health and safety (38.9%), along with budget cuts (28.3%) were also in the top 3 challenges for 2021.

2. Employee Health & Safety

It is clear that businesses are placing employee health & safety training high on the agenda for 2021, and it will remain a key business focus. According to the professionals surveyed, the biggest challenges surrounding health and safety at work are supporting mental health & wellbeing and developing a safety culture. Business owners and leaders need to be mindful as to how they can achieve this, whilst juggling all their priorities as the new year progresses.

91.8% of the surveyed professionals are aware of the legal responsibilities regarding Health & Safety, HR, and Business Compliance training and rate workplace training 9.3 out of 10 for importance, with 10 being extremely important.

3. Workplace Training

Organisations have an ongoing responsibility to keep their staff safe and create a positive working environment, in a challenging business climate. Workplace training plays an important role in this for many businesses. 67.4% use eLearning for some or all of their training requirements and see the greatest benefits of using eLearning as being cost-effective, more convenient and the useability for staff to complete it on any device at any time so they have some control of their own learning.

Of those that use eLearning, 77.8% of the surveyed professionals use it for health and safety training courses, subjects which include DSE training, Fire Awareness and Food Safety for example. 45.9% use it for Business compliance training, including GDPR and Cyber Security and 43.6% use eLearning for HR Compliance – which includes Equality & Diversity and Mental health and wellbeing training courses. A further 21.5% use eLearning for soft skills such as computer skills and leadership, along with 5.4% for other training requirements.

In the current climate eLearning is particularly valuable to businesses, especially as face-to-face training has not been possible. The popularity of eLearning is set to continue and grow even further as the future workplace evolves.

Employee mental health and wellbeing is a key concern

What is clear, is that whatever industry you work in, employee mental health and wellbeing is a key concern. “Over the last few years, employers have definitely been focusing more on their employees’ mental health and now it’s at the top of the agenda, due to the pandemic” says Lottie Galvin, Studio Manager & Staff Mental First Aider at iHASCO.

“All organisations have employees struggling with poor mental health and many of those may be suffering in silence. I’m not surprised that the survey has found mental health and wellbeing to be a top concern for employers in 2021, but the focus is in the right place.”


Those who are interested further in the key trends and issues that face businesses this year, can download a free report. It has been compiled by iHASCO’s industry experts to provide an informative and insightful report, and give organisations some inspiration and focus for the year ahead.

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