Employee health: Where does employer responsibility start and end?

As an employer, you are likely aware that you hold a duty of care to your employees.

This means legally; you are obliged to take precautions and necessary steps to make sure the physical and mental wellbeing of your workforce is looked after. Nothing about the workplace culture or environment is detrimental to employee health.

But should demonstrating care and concern for employee health and wellbeing just be considered a legal duty, or should it be seen as an ethical, authentic way in which to build a profitable business and an excellent employer brand? Is it better to do what you are required and deal with each case as it comes? Or do you go the extra mile and provide additional steps and resources for your employees, as a way of building trust and employee engagement, boosting productivity and building advocates as a result?

Below, we take a look at both duty of care and taking care of employee health and wellbeing.

Duty of care

An employer’s duty of care can encompass a wide range of responsibilities and vary across businesses. Often the duties include:

  • Undertaking risk assessments.
  • Ensuring the work environment is safe.
  • Clearly defining job roles.
  • Providing training and feedback on job performance.
  • Making sure that staff do not work excessive hours.
  • Ensuring that the workplace has adequate areas for staff to take breaks and relax in.
  • It is protecting staff from discrimination, bullying and harassment. This could be from other employees or third parties.
  • Providing employees with communication channels to raise concerns
  • Acknowledge and consult with employees on concerns and issues raised

Taking care of employee health and wellbeing – the case for

Richard Branson once said, ‘Take care of your employees, and they’ll take care of your business’.

It is one thing to adhere to your legal obligation as an employer. Still, it is another to recognise that committing to your employees’ health and wellbeing is not only an ethical decision but also one that is great for business too.

Some employers still maintain an outdated view that investing in employee health through schemes and insurance is just another cost to the business, rather than seeing it as an investment that would provide returns. However, in recent years, forward-thinking leaders and innovative firms have paved the way for employee health, happiness and wellbeing, and there is now a wealth of data to back up the fact that this investment does in fact yield returns.

This has also raised employees’ expectations. If you want to attract the best candidates to your business, offering health benefits and placing a focus on employee wellbeing will set you apart from the competition that doesn’t provide this.

Modern businesses have recognised that when dealing with employee poor physical and mental health and wellbeing, the boundaries between home and work are blurred. This rings especially true since the global COVID19 pandemic when the majority of UK businesses were forced into remote working.

We spend around one-third of our lives at work. And the time spent in the office sees us striving to meet and exceed performance expectations, employees must bring their ‘whole self’ to work. If ongoing physical ailments or ill mental health are being experienced, ruling without empathy, and instead an iron fist, is going to cause more stress and anxiety, exacerbating the situation further.

We have previously written about the cost of employee sickness to employers, discussing the fact that the number of sick days taken each year is on the rise. With this in mind, it makes sense to reconsider how employers should consider their responsibility to employee health and wellbeing.

Visit our Employee Wellbeing Resource Centre for lots more advice and guidance when it comes to looking after your workforce.

Healthy, happy employees benefit the bottom line

A healthier workforce makes business sense. Some of the benefits include reduced stress among employees, less sick days being taken, increased focus and productivity and greater employee engagement and satisfaction.

In turn, this improves staff recruitment and retention – lowering your recruitment budgets and onboarding costs. Paying attention to employee wellbeing will boost your employer brand, also making it easier to recruit top talent when required.

It will also contribute to your brand and company reputation. People want to do business with ethical companies, and happy, productive and engaged employees will quickly forge a good rapport with clients, customers and third-party agencies. Employees like these helps to build your customer base and provide a return on your investment into their health and wellbeing.

Some of the ways that you can increase employer responsibility when it comes to employee health include:

  • Providing employee health insurance and wellness programmes.
  • Providing free healthy snacks such as weekly fruit deliveries.
  • Offering access to mental health coaching.
  • Encouraging staff to step away from their work during lunchbreaks for exercise or to relax.
  • Incentivising schemes such as ‘cycle to work.’
  • Regular one-to-ones that address employee health and wellness as well as job performance.

We hope that has inspired you to rethink your approach to your staff’s health and wellness and your responsibility as an employer. If there is anything you would like to discuss when it comes to attracting high-quality candidates, our team have plenty of knowledge and experience. You can get in touch via our Contact Us page; we would love to hear from you.

About the Author

Karen Dykes

Karen Dykes

Recruitment Partner

Karen, recruitment partner and part of the management team at Anne Corder Recruitment, manages a huge array of responsibilities. Managing everything that is not directly job handling, Karen is also an expert in candidate sourcing, change management, training and temp recruitment.