Manufacturing employers increase investment in wellbeing

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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

Nearly half of all UK manufacturing employers increased their spending on workforce health and wellbeing in the last year. Now, figures are showing the positive impact this has had.

Of the companies who increased investment in wellbeing initiatives, 49% maintained this level of investment. 33% now invest more than £100 per employee, another increase from previous years.

Wellbeing initiatives offered by these companies included employee assistance programmes, which were the most popular measure, followed by counselling services and other therapies.

Other welfare-related measures provided aimed to improve workforce satisfaction and reduce absence. This included free eye tests and health screening, private medical insurance, free flu vaccinations, advice on healthy eating and lifestyles, and even gym subsidies.

The result of these initiatives, according to Make UK, is improved staff retention. Four in ten companies who increased health and wellbeing investment saw retention rise and absence fall by as much as a quarter. 18% of companies reported an increase in productivity.

According to the Labour Turnover survey, 2022 saw 20% turnover across the sector – the highest level on record. This fell to 16% in 2023, the lowest since 2018.

The initiatives also led to a drop in average days lost to absence. From a 5.6 average per employee in 2022, the 2023 figure fell to 4.7.

Make UK’s survey looked at Sickness Absence and Labour Turnover across manufacturing. One of the biggest causes of long-term absence is physical health, accounting for 81% of all absences. Meanwhile, long-term mental health isn’t far behind, causing a third of all absences at work.

Senior Employment Policy Manager, Jamie Cater, said it showed an increased investment in wellbeing can directly reduce absence and retain staff:

“While manufacturers still face a challenging environment – ongoing shortages of technical skills, rising employment costs and an ageing workforce – recruitment and retention pressures have eased in the last few months.

“Employers are seeing the benefits in particular of increased investment in employee health and wellbeing, and the Government has an opportunity to support businesses to do more of this by expanding tax relief on a range of Occupational Health services to help people stay healthy and productive at work.”

Manufacturing now sees a lower number of live vacancies, shorter recruitment lead times, and fewer barriers to successful recruitment. However, the sector still faces real challenges.

Staff leaving manufacturing are doing so for good reasons – chief among them, seeking higher pay and opportunities for progression. Staff retirement in the last twelve months has affected nearly half of all employers. There is work still to be done.

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