From your income and your education to your genetics and gender, there are a huge range of factors that can have a bearing on your wellbeing.

Many of these ‘determinants of health’ – as they are described by the World Health Organisation – are unquestionably out of our control. Despite their ability to impact whether we feel healthy or not, they are forces over which we have little influence.

But that is not to say that as individuals we are entirely powerless. Indeed, the choices we make and the behaviours we adopt can go a long way towards either enhancing our own wellbeing, limiting our risk of becoming ill, or speeding our recovery.

How employers can help

Employers can play an important supporting role to their staff in this regard, encouraging and empowering employees to proactively support their own healthcare. This not only reflects a level of care for the workforce, but there are also obvious benefits in terms of helping improve productivity and addressing the issue of long-term absence. The question, therefore, is how best can companies fulfil this role?

One potentially valuable yet sometimes overlooked tool is insurance. Traditionally, health cover is regarded as a reactive, compensatory mechanism, supporting treatment and recovery after someone becomes unwell. However, there is an increasing emphasis on the use of insurance products to support more proactive healthcare measures.

These services might be designed to prevent illness or, in the case of vocational rehabilitation, to limit the impact of an illness for the individual concerned. They include everything from talking therapies and counselling to tackle mental health concerns to virtual GP access and expert support in areas such as fitness and nutrition.

Staying well enough to work

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has conducted research to examine this issue in greater depth, drawing on analysis of outcomes from 16,365 people. Among the key findings was the fact that, as a result of accessing insurer-provided vocational rehabilitation services, nearly two thirds of people (65%) didn’t need to take sick leave, while just over a fifth (21%) were supported to return to work.

In the case of those receiving support for a mental health condition – the main driver of demand among employees – around a quarter (24%) remained well enough to work and around two thirds (64%) were supported to return to work.

Separate research has shown strong support among employees for the shift towards proactive rather than reactive healthcare provision. In the retail sector, the vast majority (80%) of workers said they want their company to be more proactive in boosting employee health, wellbeing and healthy habits.

Early indicators and informed choices

This support can be delivered in a variety of forms. Indeed, private medical insurance (PMI) has evolved beyond providing rapid access to care facilities and financial support for individuals diagnosed with an illness. Many providers now take a more holistic approach, offering access to additional services that support ongoing physical and mental health.

Depending on the insurer, packages could be tailored to include a variety of health assessments, tests and screenings that can monitor physical health and assess for early indicators of illness. In some cases, employees can use the findings and recommendations to inform lifestyle choices that could improve their wellbeing.

Cash plans provide another means for encouraging employees to access the services they need to stay on top of their health. In the case of dental treatments, for example, cash plans can help individuals finance potentially large one-off costs through regular premiums. By improving affordability, cash plans reduce the friction around accessing medical help, ensuring the workforce maintains a good level of self-care and limits the risk of more serious problems arising further down the line.

Clarity in communication

Where private health cover and cash plans are available as part of an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or employee benefit offering, communication is, of course, a crucial tool in encouraging take-up. However, research has shown that most companies only highlight the availability of such services in response to requests or leave the information to be discovered on the company intranet.

In contrast, those employers keen to drive uptake are implementing a range of measures, including the use of health and wellbeing champions (29%), in-person events led by specialists (25%), webinars (22%), and regular promotions (21%).

The sad reality is that it is impossible to prevent employees from becoming ill altogether. But by embedding a proactive rather than reactive approach to healthcare, it is possible to put in place support mechanisms that empower employees and allow worker wellbeing to flourish across the organisation.


The information contained within this communication does not constitute financial advice and is provided for general information purposes only. No warranty, whether express or implied is given in relation to such information. Vintage Health or any of its associated representatives shall not be liable for any technical, editorial, typographical or other errors or omissions within the content of this communication.