Almost a third (30%) of U.K. employers have a defined wellness strategy in place for their employees, according to new research by the Reward & Employee Benefits Association.

Its Employee Wellness Research 2016: How wellness strategies are growing in the UK, published in association with Punter Southall Health & Protection, found that 80% of these wellness strategies were launched in the past three years.

Of those respondents without a strategy, 31% plan to introduce one in 2016, while a further 35% plan to implement a wellness strategy at some point in the next few years and 32% report a wellness strategy is on their “wish list” but is not currently part of their plans.

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The research also found that 39% of respondents launched their wellness strategy to increase employee engagement, while 23% did so to improve their organizational culture and 13% did so to help them retain their talented employees.

“With a few exceptional examples, U.K. [employers have] tended to lag in the employee wellness stakes compared to what our U.S. peers are doing,” said Debi O’Donovan, partner at REBA.

“Clearly the drivers are different: the U.K. has the NHS, while U.S. employers have to work hard to cap private insurance costs. So here in the U.K., as our research demonstrates, cost is not the key driver of employee wellness. Instead it is employee engagement and organizational culture.”

Read: Wellness programs increase employee engagement: survey

One of the key areas cited by almost half (49%) of the surveyed wellness strategies was financial education and advice, with nearly a third (32%) of all respondents planning to add some form of financial education or support to their wellness strategies in 2016 or beyond.

The research also found that 55% of respondents with a defined wellness strategy also have a dedicated wellness budget in place to fund their programs and initiatives. Less than a third (28%) take their wellness spend from another budget – typically the HR, benefits or central reward budget.

The median annual spend on wellness per employee, according to the research, is £26 to £50 at businesses with a defined wellness strategy. This drops to £1 to £25 at organisations without a strategy.

Read: 57% of workplaces have no mental health strategy

Additional findings from the research include:

  • An equal number (79%) of respondents address both mental health and physical activity within their wellness strategies.
  • 76% of respondents have made changes to their work environment to encourage healthier behaviour among their workforce.
  • 63% of respondents communicate their wellness initiatives to employees via email, while 56% use posters and leaflets and 51% provide information on their company intranets.
  • 27% of all respondents measure the effectiveness of their wellness initiatives – although there is a significant difference between employers with a defined wellness strategy (60%) and those without (14%).

Read: Employers tweaking corporate health plans to appeal to millennial workers


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