Helping employees look after their health could directly impact the business bottom line

By Russ Piper, chief executive, Sovereign Health Care

The importance of employee wellbeing to businesses has become increasingly apparent over the last 18 months, with physical and mental health under the spotlight more than ever before.

The impact of employee health and wellbeing issues is significant. Experts estimated the yearly cost of long-term sickness absence as £4.17 billion to private sector businesses in the UK and predict this will reach £4.81 billion by 2030 .

As leaders, knowing how to support employee health and wellbeing can feel overwhelming particularly when faced with the demands of the day job. However, putting straightforward measures in place that encourage employees to take small steps to improve their wellbeing can make a real difference.

Nudge theory is the science behind subtly leading people to the ‘right’ decision. Applying this to the workplace, HR experts suggest that persuading people towards better choices rather than mandating changes will empower employees and create lasting change in wellbeing levels.

This is good news for businesses that want to help employees take better care of themselves and seek help early when needed. Here are some examples of simple steps that can nudge employees towards positive change:

Make healthy choices easier

As employers, we can encourage exercise by providing a Cycle to Work scheme, discounted gym membership, or by simply introducing walking meetings as part of company culture. Team up with local cafes to offer staff discounts on healthy lunches or offer a free fruit perk to on-site staff.

Help employees access important health and wellbeing services

Since the pandemic started, we have seen many of the everyday health services that people have traditionally taken for granted come under increasing pressure, potentially making it difficult for employees to get help as quickly as they may need. Businesses can help ease these challenges by adding a health care cash plan and employee assistance programme (EAP) to their benefits packages.

Cash plans are an affordable and straightforward way to help employees look after the cost of their health and wellbeing and are significantly cheaper than traditional private medical insurance, with both NHS and private treatments covered. These plans pay employees cash back towards everyday health costs and more specialist treatments, as well as offering additional benefits such as a 24-hour GP service. EAPs offer employees confidential support, assistance and counselling for a range of work-related and personal issues. At Sovereign, as well as offering health care cash plans and EAPs to our customers, we also provide them to our own people as part of their benefits packages to help support their health and wellbeing.

These affordable, simple but impactful measures can make a major difference to the bottom line, increasing productivity, and reducing the need for or duration of sickness leave by boosting overall health and wellbeing and enabling employees to take action at the first signs of a health problem.

To find out more about these and other steps that businesses can take to manage employee health and wellbeing, read our practical new guide at