Best Wellbeing Provider 2015 at the VIBs, Barnett Waddingham LLP helps employers find their unique wellbeing needs, says Carl Chapman


Barnett Waddingham does not believe in a blanket approach to wellbeing – there simply isn’t an off-the-shelf product that can cure all ills of all employees in every company.

In reality, every company has its own unique wellbeing risks, and that’s why we have spent a lot of time creating an analytical tool – BWell – that identifies what those risks are, so that an appropriate strategy can be put in place. It has taken 18 months to build our award-winning proposition around wellbeing.

Of course there are obvious wellbeing trends that impact on all companies: the headline issues such as stress and mental health, and financial pressures – both immediate and future. However, it would be naive for companies to make too many assumptions about the areas where their employees will and won’t encounter problems.

The analytical path has to be the way employers approach wellbeing: otherwise they risk wasting money on problems that don’t exist. When it comes to creating even the most basic employee wellbeing strategy, by far the most important thing an employer can do is to engage with their staff , finding out how they feel about their lives and what their needs and issues are – basically identifying what (if anything) is preventing them from being more productive and more engaged.

Barnett Waddingham’s BWell proposition is built around what we call the six pillars of employee wellbeing. Those areas that make up an employee’s overall wellbeing are:

  • Job security
  • Financial security
  • Health
  • Support
  • Protection
  • Work-life balance

We believe it is right to survey employees against those pillars, in order to get information about how they feel about those elements of their lives and to gain an understanding of where they see the problems being in the workforce.

Moreover, employees want to feel part of the plan and the strategy, so involving them at the offset and putting a strategy in place which takes into account their considerations and needs is a great way to include and engage your employees.

From there, effective strategies can be put in place to target those problems. While absence data and claims data can help employers to pinpoint issues, they only tell part of the story, and are only health-related. Moreover, health insurance data also refers to those problems that have already manifested, whereas employers also need to know about issues that might manifest in the future.

At present, the medical insurance model in the UK is completely broken, and so companies really need to start to consider what their plan is to deal with medical insurance in the future. Is their current offering sustainable, or do they need to address it with a contingency plan?

Health insurance currently is costing UK businesses an awful lot of money – but not showing much return on investment. That cost is driven by a number of factors, for example increased medical costs, no clinical management of medical insurance and so on. The solution is for employers to start utilising the wider health-related benefits that are available on the market: income protection, EAPs – and of course the NHS, which medical insurance was designed to compliment.

Employees are more or less left on their own to find their own treatment pathway through health insurance, and are never going to consider all those options. Employers have to know what options are out there, and must have a plan in place for using them as alternatives to medical insurance, not replace!

Workplaces now have employees from 18 to 68. It’s a huge challenge and it’s only going to become a wider-spread issue – and employers are starting to address their benefits accordingly, offering more flexibility and choice to their staff.

The same should be applied to wellbeing – a 60 year old will naturally have different needs and priorities to a 20 year old.

There’s no room in the market for a blanket approach to wellbeing. Once you understand and break down the issues in the workforce for those demographics, then you can target your wellbeing offering accordingly.

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