Workplace health low priority for businesses despite value of employee wellbeing, says new report

Article date: 30 January 2008

British Businesses know the value of workplace health but remain reluctant to invest due to a gap in guidance and a lack of incentives, according to a new report out today.

Norwich Union Healthcare's latest "Health of the Workplace" report found that two thirds (64%) of businesses believe that employee wellbeing has a direct impact on the productivity levels of their workforce. However a third (33%) of employers don't invest more due to a lack of government incentives and a quarter (24%) don't know where to access occupational health information - this rose to 43% among small businesses.

The report shows that the type of incentive needed varies according to company size. Subsidised occupational healthcare (58%) would encourage small and medium sized companies to implement rehabilitation schemes for their staff, followed by tax incentives for small companies (57%) and better partnerships with the NHS for medium sized companies (48%). Better NHS relationships and legislation (51% respectively), followed by tax incentives (49%), would encourage large companies.

Employers, employees and GPs were surveyed for the report, which examines why workplace health continues to challenge businesses. Sickness absence remains companies' most pressing workplace health concern (40%), followed by ageing workforces for large companies (20%) and a perceived lack of government support and incentives for small and medium-sized businesses (23%).

Dr Douglas Wright, Norwich Union Healthcare, comments: "Our second ‘Health of the Workplace' report reveals a real ‘guidance gap' in employers' approach to workplace health. Companies know the value of workplace health but many are unaware of the services already available to them and believe that more financial incentives are needed to encourage a better approach to occupational health. Our report shows that it's important to bridge that gap, embed the enthusiasm that exists on all sides on occupational health and move towards putting workable solutions in place."

John Wright, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, explains why Britain's 4.5 million** small businesses feel especially unsupported: "Britain's economy has encouraged an entrepreneurial spirit in the UK in recent years, which means that there are more small businesses than ever. However these businesses do not have the benefit of large HR departments in charge of workplace health and need more support on this front. There is belief that if the Government becomes more proactive in terms of providing financial incentives to small businesses, their occupational health offering would improve."

The research also reveals that employers believe that GPs should be more proactive in terms of helping businesses deal with workplace health, from helping to rehabilitate employees after sickness absence (42%) and being less lenient in issuing sick notes (26%) to being more proactive in communicating with employers directly to discuss employee wellbeing (24%).

Norwich Union Healthcare is one of the UK's leading providers of occupational health and wellness solutions, with a newly launched Employer Solutions offering and seven dedicated clinics around the UK. As both a provider of healthcare services to employers and as a large employer, Norwich Union Healthcare recognises the cost poor workplace health can have both to employees and employers and the need to all work together to turn good intentions into tangible results.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • The majority of businesses (79%) believe they have a ‘duty of care' towards their employees
  • Most businesses (82%) and employees (69%) agree that the responsibility for health in the workplace is mutual between employer and employee
  • Over half of employees (59%) agree with businesses that employers should be more proactive in terms of providing workplace health solutions.

For more information, please visit to view Norwich Union Healthcare's latest "Health of the Workplace" report.


Media contacts:
Melanie Corbett or Emilie Lien at Lexis PR
Telephone: 020 7908 6488
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Norwich Union Press Office contact
Emma Broadbent, Media Relations Manager
Telephone: 01904 452791

Notes to editors:

About the research
Norwich Union Healthcare commissioned MedeConnect to conduct research amongst approximately 200 practising GPs from across the UK in December 2007.

Norwich Union Healthcare commissioned Vanson Bourne to conduct research amongst approximately 250 businesses from across the UK in November 2007.

Norwich Union Healthcare commissionedYouGov to conduct research amongst approximately 1,000 consumers across the UK in December 2007.

* Annual CBI Absence Survey, 2006

** Department for Business Enterprise & Regulation Reform, 2006

About Norwich Union Healthcare
Norwich Union Healthcare was founded in 1990 as the healthcare arm of Norwich Union and now provides a range of private medical insurance, income protection, occupational health and group life products and services that cover over 2,400,000 lives. It is one of the largest providers of income protection and private medical insurance in the UK.

Norwich Union Occupation Health, a sister company of Norwich Union Healthcare, provides occupational health solutions and services to a wide range of industry sectors. By utilising their large fleet of purpose built mobile clinics and approved medical centres, staffed by a team of experienced occupational physicians and nursing staff, the services are designed to meet the individual needs of clients.

Norwich Union Healthcare is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority and is a member of the Association of British Insurers and the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva's internet press centre at

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