Unhealthy mismatch between employers’ health wishes and realities in EMEA

23 April 2018 Gavin Griffin, Aon Employee Benefits
Gavin Griffin of Aon Employee Benefits in South Africa.

Gavin Griffin of Aon Employee Benefits in South Africa.

Aon’s 2018 EMEA Health Survey has found that though many employers recognise the role they have to play in influencing good employee health, most are not employing strategies that best enable these outcomes.

The Survey, which covers more than 900 employers across the region, in 25 industries and covering 2.7 million employees aims to identify the key health issues employers are facing as they develop their people risk strategies, including the opportunities and challenges.

The majority of employers overwhelmingly recognise the importance of having a well-defined, well communicated health and wellbeing programme and that there is a correlation between employee health and their performance.

• 100% of South African firms agree that they have a role to play in positively influencing good employee health.
• Nearly 70% of overall respondents either have a specific budget in place, or plan to have within the next two years, to fund health initiatives.
• Most employers seem to have a good idea of the types of health and wellbeing issues they need to focus on, for example, lifestyle risks, and financial, physical and/or emotional wellbeing. 72% of South African respondents say stress and mental health issues are their primary concern.

Yet in spite of this recognition of a correlation between health and employee performance, many organisations do not appear to be implementing strategies that best enable these outcomes, and the prevalence of health programmes of all types is lower than two years ago.

• Only 40% of employers say they have a defined health strategy in place, the same as 2016, and even fewer (36%) have a clear view of the impact (including cost) of the health issues in their organisation.
• The key barriers to running or implementing successful wellbeing programmes include having no budget or a budget that is not deemed enough, having limited resources, or not being able to measure the effectiveness of any initiatives.
• Only 22% of employers use data to support their health and wellbeing strategy, and just 17% of South African employers measure ongoing success of their health programmes.
• Less than 40% of employers rate their health and benefits communication to employees as good.
• The survey also finds that attracting and retaining talent is the top HR issue in 2018, overtaking increasing productivity and employee performance, which has dropped to the number three concern since the last survey in 2016. Improving engagement and morale is the second highest ranked concern.

According to Gavin Griffin, of Aon Employee Benefits in South Africa, stress and mental health issues remain a top concern for South African employers, with financial health a close second. “In spite of these obvious concerns, South African firms appear less proactive in offering almost all types of health initiatives. Programmes addressing stress and mental health in particular are the least likely to be provided. Putting in place more structured programmes to address this would seem a good investment.”

“Although South African respondents are more confident in their health and benefits communications than many others in the survey, low utilisation by employees has jumped into second place when they are asked to rate the obstacles to health initiative success. This is often a symptom of poor or ineffective communications and a review of current communications programmes would be a worthwhile exercise,” suggests Gavin.

Andrew Cunningham, Commercial Leader, Health & Benefits, EMEA at Aon says, "This survey demonstrates that attracting and retaining talent is the top HR issue at the moment and it is positive that so many employers say they recognise the link between good employee health, performance and engagement. However, the data also suggests that in reality employers really need to challenge themselves around whether they are doing enough to protect the health and wellbeing of their top assets. It is time to shift from positive intentions to measured investment, changing communication strategies to better support employees."

Matthew Lawrence, Chief Broking Officer, Health & Benefits, EMEA at Aon comments, “Although more organisations now have a defined health budget for many employers this does not appear to stretch far enough in order for them to achieve their desired health and wellbeing outcomes. It is vital that employers think about how best to utilise this spend, what role other stakeholders in the process could play in supporting funding initiatives and, where appropriate, how best to make use of what they are already paying for, for example, insurer value add services.”

“More importantly, focusing health initiatives where they are most needed and deliver most value is key, both from a value for investment and return on investment perspective. For example, taking data and providing insightful analysis should lead to targeted action and measurable outcomes that potentially would have a positive impact on both the individual employee and the employer. Nearly 80% of respondents to this survey are missing out on this opportunity. The 85% who reported in the last survey that they intended to start measuring their success have not materialised – it will be interesting to see how many of the 88% who say the same this year have put measurement programmes in place by 2020,” concludes Matthew.

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