CIPD: Health and Wellbeing at Work 2022 Report – Summary and Tips
Key Contact: Claire Knowles
Author: Saskia Musacchio
In keeping with the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week, it is the perfect time to review and reflect on the findings of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)’s Health and Wellbeing at Work 2022 Report (the CIPD Report). Below, we also provide some guidance to help you elevate the support given to your employees post-pandemic.
The impact of the pandemic on businesses’ absence levels has been significant. The CIPD Report uncovers that for 67% of organisations, COVID-19 is within the top three causes of short-term absence. Surprisingly, this has risen from 39% last year. Indeed, throughout the past year, one in 12 businesses surveyed experienced a loss of more than 25% in working time due to COVID-19-related absence. Just 3% of employers reported they have not suffered any such absence.
Despite the immediate health crisis appearing to be in retreat, it is clear that COVID-19 is still playing a large role in disrupting businesses’ overall output and its employees’ productivity. To help mitigate against these effects and to avoid further affecting absences, employers must continue to provide a hygienic and safe working environment, as well as to promote a degree of flexible working (see more below).
Long-term illness can be a challenging HR issue to manage, especially when the employee’s illness may qualify as a disability under the Equality Act 2010. Indeed, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has recommended that businesses’ treat employees suffering from Long COVID, in some instances, as if they have a disability. All cases must be judged on their own individual circumstances.
The need for employers to implement this cautious approach is reflected in the CIPD Report, which shows that throughout the past year, 46% of businesses have employees who have experienced Long COVID. Most of these employers are taking steps to support them, through implementing occupational health assessments, tailoring support to individual needs and promoting flexible working. Therefore, to future-proof health and wellbeing frameworks, employers should look to embed support for individuals experiencing Long COVID. Ultimately, this is in employers’ best interests since failure to make reasonable adjustments will put employers at risk of disability discrimination claims, which can have significant impact on an organisations’ costs, reputation and image in the national workplace and beyond.
It could also be helpful to provide senior managers with guidance and training on how best to support employees managing Long COVID, such as by encouraging them to stay home / work from home if they are able to, and creating an open dialogue with their colleagues in which they are comfortable sharing their concerns.
For more information on this topic, please see our article on Managing Long Covid in the Workplace here: https://acuitylaw.com/managing-long-covid-in-the-workplace/.
The CIPD Report reveals that 70% of employers place the main responsibility for managing short-term (70%) and long-term (61%) absences on line managers. Surprisingly, only 60% provide line managers with effective training and assistance with handling such absences.
To govern absence and encourage attendance, the majority of businesses surveyed use a combination of methods. Effective methods include return-to-work interviews, changes to working patterns or environment, leave for family circumstances and trigger mechanisms to review attendance.
As a priority, employers must therefore ensure line managers have the confidence and capability to nurture trust-based relationships with their staff. Supplying line managers with effective, regular training, support, guidance and assistance will be pivotal in encouraging employees to initially open up with their line managers, and set a precedent that the employer genuinely cares for the wellbeing of its employees. Enabling line managers to devote adequate time to managing their staff will also be an important consideration to ensure employees feel they can inform line managers of any concerns and not worry about impeding on their time.
The CIPD Report further revealed that mental health is the main cause of long-term absence. As such, an employer would also do well to make an effort to promote positive values, collective and social relationships, a good work–life balance and physical health within their organisation.
Health and wellbeing
Post-pandemic, employee wellbeing has risen up the corporate agenda. As such, we are seeing a growing demand for healthcare and wellbeing focused policies that assist employers in promoting an inclusive and supportive environment for their staff.
Most businesses surveyed are taking additional measures to strengthen health and wellbeing within their organisations. Effective methods include tailored support to address individuals’ concerns, enhanced focus on mental health, and better homeworking support. A third of organisations have also opted to enhance wellbeing benefits as a result of COVID-19.
However, the CIPD Report reveals there is major variation in organisations’ offering of wellbeing provision to specific groups of employees and / or issues. For instance, only a minority provide benefits specifically for menstrual health. Enhancing benefits can be an effective way to assist in creating a culture of inclusiveness, build upon the protections of the Equality Act 2010 and attract a more diverse workforce.
The CIPD Report shows that less organisations are taking action to increase awareness of mental health issues, or to identify mental ill health among staff who work remotely. Whilst spotting early warning signs of mental ill health can be tricky, the CIPD report illustrates that we cannot afford to sideline the importance of our employees’ mental health. It can be helpful to support employees’ mental health in the following ways: having sensitive discussions, implementing employee assistance programmes, introducing phased return to work or other reasonable adjustments and providing access to expert counselling services. It is recommended that managers are also offered training on how best to handle conversations on challenging life and health related issues. It is essential that such conversations are managed empathetically, both to promote staff retention and to reduce absenteeism.
For more information on this topic, please see our article Healthcare & Wellbeing Focused HR Policies here: https://acuitylaw.com/healthcare-and-wellbeing-focused-hr-policies/.
The pandemic has created a necessity to be more inventive and businesses have realised that flexible working can be used as a strategic tool to support the individual (by gaining loyalty, dedication and a higher level of job satisfaction) which in turn improves business performance.
Indeed, the CIPD Report demonstrates that working from home allowed companies to navigate many of the problems caused by the pandemic and resulted in previously unimaginable flexibility in the workplace. Being creative and open-minded about flexibility tends to promote trust, provided the appropriate people management systems and processes are in place.
However, more than one in five employees report poor work–life balance due to homeworking. Additionally, 72% of HR professionals surveyed stated that it is more difficult to recognise potential issues with their employees in remote work settings. Therefore, effective communication coupled with well-trained line managers can be especially helpful in overcoming these concerns. Encouraging a hybrid scheme which sees individuals attending the workplace a couple of days a week could also be beneficial in navigating such an issue.
However, what is clear is that ‘one size does not fit all’. Whilst for some employees homeworking enables them to work more effectively, productively and profitably for the business, for others it can be isolating and anxiety-inducing. Therefore, combined with a homeworking system, employers would be best advised to also keep the traditional model of working for those employees who want to work in that frame. Taking a holistic approach that enables employees to dictate how they work and gives them the opportunity to sculpt their career and working pattern to suit what fits them, will likely achieve the greatest success.
For more information on this topic, you can watch our webinar on Flexible Working vs Working Flexibly here: https://acuitylaw.com/flexible-working-vs-working-flexibly/.
If you have any queries or would like any assistance, please feel free to contact a member of the Acuity Employment team.