Southern Cross Health Society boosts in-house wellness expertise

Wednesday , 28 November 2018 by Campbell Gibson

Southern Cross Health Society has strengthened its workplace wellbeing expertise to help meet growing demand from Kiwi businesses for robust programmes to support the health of their people.

A group of seven Southern Cross staff are among the first in New Zealand to achieve formal Wellness Wise Practitioner accreditation. Australia-based Wellness Wise Academy delivers the training and is recognised as a pioneer in health and wellness strategy.

Chief Sales Officer Kerry Boielle says feedback from some of the 4,000 plus Kiwi businesses with which the Health Society works shows employers increasingly wanting to do more when it comes to health and wellbeing.

“Many businesses know the benefits a workplace wellbeing programme can bring for their people and their bottom line, but limits on capacity and time mean they’re sometimes only able to scratch the surface of what’s possible,” she says.

One of the key reasons for businesses wanting to improve health and wellbeing is to reduce workplace absence and to focus on supporting employees with health – specifically mental health – concerns. The 2017 Wellness in the Workplace survey* showed absence alone cost the NZ economy around $1.5 billion in 2016. For employers the direct cost of an absent employee is typically between $600 and $1,000 annually, according to the survey.

“While the survey found that both larger and smaller businesses are now more likely to have some form of employee assistance programme, issues like stress are still a growing concern for employers and it’s something they want support with.”

The newly trained wellbeing specialists will focus on helping clients make the most of the not-for-profit Health Society’s newly-launched customisable workplace wellbeing proposition, BeingWell.

*The Wellness in the Workplace Survey is completed biennially by more than 100 Kiwi businesses and is run by Southern Cross Health Society and BusinessNZ. The survey is designed to give a current picture of workplace health and wellness for Kiwi workers.

Key survey findings and additional information from the survey:

  • The average rate of absence per employee is 4.5-five days.
  • Wellness has a sizeable impact on the productivity of most enterprises, with most experiencing a noticeable drop in output when staff are unwell.
  • New Zealand’s overall absence rate has typically remained below five days, but continues to be well above four.
  • Average days of absence for non-manual workers have continued to increase while the opposite has been the case for manual employees.
  • Non-manual workers in enterprises with fewer than 50 staff have the lowest average level of absence.
  • Absence rates are still likely to be higher among manual workers operating in large enterprises.
  • Average absence levels are consistently higher for public sector workers who are, on average, away 2-2.5 days more than private sector staff.
  • On average, more than 40% of staff still turn up to work ill despite businesses encouraging them to stay home when sick.
  • Cost, evidence of reduced absenteeism and increased retention, and the removal of Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT) are the key factors businesses consider when deciding whether to provide health insurance for staff. These have remained unchanged since the survey began in 2013.