PM Editorial, 11 August 2015
Study finds employer attitudes shift away from accepting responsibility for employee well-being
More than half of leaders and heads of HR do not believe that their organsiation has a duty of care to protect employee health, a study has found.
The research, conducted by leadership development specialist Morgan Redwood, showed that only 46 per cent of firms regarding staff health as an employer’s responsibility.
The limited proportion of leaders who recognise their responsibility for staff health is in stark contrast to the specialist’s 2009 study, which showed that 95 per cent of businesses believed they did have a duty of care for the health of their workforce.
Such a huge swing in attitudes is surprisingly in light of the findings that 26 per cent of respondents believed that business performance was ‘very closely connected’ to staff wellbeing, with a further 57 per cent seeing them as ‘quite connected’. Only 7 per cent of the business leaders in the survey felt performance and well-being were ‘not at all connected.’
The research also found that helping staff to achieve a better work-life balance was low on the list of HR priorities, ranked 10th by respondents, with only 6 per cent viewing it as a key aspect of their HR strategy.
Employee well-being was rated even lower, with slightly under 6 per cent of employers considering it to be a priority, placing it 12th on the list.
The top priority was ‘attracting better talent to the business’ with 39 per cent, followed by ‘reducing staff churn’ with 37 per cent and in third position ‘reducing staff costs’ with 35 per cent.
Janice Haddon, managing director at Morgan Redwood, said: “The latest findings really do indicate a startling shift in employer opinion. A swing from 95 per cent to 46 per cent is a huge difference. What has caused such a sea change?
“In 2014 the CIPD reported that 40 per cent of employers are seeing a rise in stress related absence and reported mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, so the fact that companies are less inclined to see well-being as within their remit of responsibility is perplexing.”
She asked whether the rise in reported health issues, revealed by the CIPD, could be caused by a change in employer attitude and said it would be tempting to blame an increasingly held conviction that work-life integration is more appropriate than work-life balance.
“[However] our report findings indicate that a poor work-life balance is regarded as [having] the most adverse impact on morale,” Haddon said.
“Perhaps employers are putting recruitment ahead of the need to tend to existing employee needs, which means they’ve taken their eye off the well-being ball.
“Burnt out, poorly treated employees will end up becoming detrimental in the long run, so employers need to ensure they allocate sufficient resource to cater to the full spectrum of employee needs.”
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