A third (33%) of UK respondents believe their employers should pay them for keeping healthy, according to research by Willis Towers Watson.

Its 2017-2018 Global benefits attitudes survey, which surveyed 31,000 employees across 22 markets, including 2,824 employees working for medium and large-sized private sector organisations in the UK, also found that 34% of UK respondents would only participate in their organisation’s health initiatives if there was a financial incentive to do so. This is a rise from the 26% of respondents who said the same in 2013.

The research also found:

  • 70% of respondents in the UK do not believe that wellbeing-related rewards, such as health screening, physiotherapy treatment, gym or sports club membership and spa days, meet their needs.
  • 25% of respondents based in Europe, Middle East and Africa regions (EMEA) believe that employer initiatives have encouraged them to live healthier lives, compared to 40% of respondents living in Asia Pacific regions, 37% of respondents in Latin America and 31% of North America-based respondents.
  • 23% of global respondents use a programme offered by their employer or health plan during periods of high stress.
  • 41% of UK-based respondents are unable to pay an unexpected expense of £1,600, while 50% of global respondents often worry about their future financial state and 56% are confident in having sufficient retirement resources 15 years into their retirement.
  • 32% of UK respondents expect to work to age 70 or later, compared to 45% of respondents in Japanese and 7% of German respondents.
  • 43% of respondents based across EMEA regions are satisfied with their core benefits package, 55% appreciate their core healthcare plan, 50% value their core retirement plan, and 32% feel their benefit package is flexible enough.
  • 66% of employees based in North America would pay a higher amount of salary each month for more generous retirement benefits, compared to 56% of respondents from EMEA regions, 55% of Asia Pacific respondents and 61% of Latin America respondents.

Mike Blake (pictured), wellbeing lead at Willis Towers Watson, said: “The figures suggest that despite employers increasing their focus on health and wellbeing, existing schemes are not appealing to employees and, as a result, many feel they need extra motivation to participate in the shape of financial incentives. Having a healthy workforce does, of course, greatly benefit employers, [because] it leads to lower levels of sickness absenceproductivity loss and employee turnover, but employees reap the rewards of living healthier lives too. Taking care of health and [employee] wellbeing should be a shared priority of both employee and employer, not seen as additional workload that [employees] should be compensated for.

“[Organisations that] struggle to engage with employees would be wise to review [their] current health and wellbeing initiatives, so that they are truly valued by employees and meet their needs and personal health goals. It is understandable that [organisations], particularly those [that] are frustrated at a lack of engagement, are tempted to offer financial incentives to employees. But this can be a knee-jerk response to problems that may require deeper answers.

“Often, a more sustainable solution is to ask more searching questions about the programmes and initiatives that are already in place, for example: are they joined up; do they connect to employees’ wants and needs; is there a broad enough range; and are they well communicated?

“Employers could consider appealing to the tech-savvy, time-strapped, fitness-conscious [employee], for example, by offering wearable technology subsidies, promoting the use of meditation apps and introducing health-league tables.  After all, health and wellbeing programmes, as well as health-orientated benefits, are only valuable if they are utilised.

“Very often, [employers] experience an initial upsurge in engagement when they introduce new initiatives or wellness programmes, but experience shows that this can be short-lived as people get used to them over time and they lose their behavioural influence. Employers need to plan for this by attracting employees’ attention and keeping them motivatedCommunication is key in achieving this. Regular, effective messaging can help reinforce the personal benefits of participation and lower the risk of complacency or disengagement.”