Employee wellbeing – HR or Health and Safety?


Employee wellbeing – HR or Health and Safety?

Posted on 07 December 2023

​Holistic employee wellbeing is not simply preventing people from having accidents or becoming ill, it also covers the individual’s wider mental and emotional wellbeing. Allowing employees to not just survive but to thrive. The financial cost of not tackling wellbeing is huge, with poor mental health estimated to cost UK employers up to £56 billion a year. However, workplace wellbeing is a relatively new and fast changing space, so within an organisation who should be responsible for promoting and maintaining employee wellbeing?

In the workplace, employee wellbeing is often a shared responsibility of multiple stakeholders, with both HR and Health and Safety teams playing a key part in this. Below we will explore why this is and what the future may hold:

Wellbeing and particularly the mental health agenda have been seen by many as a logical fit within the Health and Safety function. This is due to the fact that they are already working with the business across the physical safety of employees, ensuring as an absolute baseline the workplace is compliant with safety regulations. They conduct activities such as workplace risk assessments, provide training and often also address any other organisation wide factors that can affect employee health, for example workplace ergonomics.

The HR function will have already created and delivered policies and practices that support and impact wellbeing from work-life balance, working patterns and hours, employee development, management styles, and a positive work environment. As a result, the wellbeing agenda fits snugly with this function also. As this team have historically managed employee assistance programs, which can include mental health support, counselling, and training there is a further already established link to wellbeing.

It will be interesting to see how this develops in the coming years and indeed if we will start to see standalone ‘Wellbeing Departments’.

Wellbeing in many organisations is already multifaceted and there is agreement that wherever this ultimately sits it is essential there is wide collaboration to ensure any solutions are fit for purpose and will prove successful. This is an urgent matter, suicide rates have increased in recent years with over 500 construction workers taking their own lives in a one-year period, equivalent to two workers every workday.

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