Wellbeing is the 'new priority' for 2014 - Towers Watson

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Wellbeing will be the ‘new priority' for employers this year amid greater debates around healthcare and group risk issues and challenges, Towers Watson has said.

The benefits consultancy said more employers will focus on preventative measures, for example, stress-related absences as opposed to tackling stress at point of need.

Rebekah Haymes, senior consultant at Towers Watson, said: "All the signs suggest wellbeing is the new priority for many HR professionals." 

She continued: "While many employers are busy implementing new and developing existing wellbeing initiatives, others will turn their attentions in 2014 to maximising spend by identifying priorities, introducing targeted programmes, introducing effective delivery and measurement mechanisms whilst implementing an effective communication strategy which focuses on behavioural change."

Meanwhile Towers Watson said many UK businesses are "reassessing their approaches" to employee healthcare.

A major theme throughout 2014 will be the challenge of managing multigenerational and globally-mobile workforces against the sustainability of providing private medical coverage to all employees, the firm said.

Joanne Anderson, senior consultant at Towers Watson, said: "In 2014 more employers will challenge the ‘one size fits all' approach to healthcare benefits by implementing segmentation to provide benefit levels that are more relevant to specific employee groups.

"In addition, larger employers will consider deconstructing existing arrangements to introduce direct contracting with practitioner and clinical groups. These new models can deliver significant cost savings with no detrimental impact on benefit design, access to benefits, or clinical outcomes."

Meanwhile, the consultancy said group life benefits are offering a "highly compelling solution" in 2014, as providers take a "more pragmatic approach" to covering catastrophe risks.

Jamie Winter, senior consultant at Towers Watson, said: "As insured group life costs continue to reduce in real terms, and as auto enrolment prompts stakeholders to reconsider their broader benefit offerings, we are seeing a notable increase in the take-up of insured group life solutions."

Towers Watson is also expecting the pace of group income protection design change to accelerate in 2014. A major factor will be greater employer recognition of the state withdrawing from welfare benefits. 

Winter said: "The good news is that the GIP provider market has evolved its offerings significantly so that a much wider choice of solutions is now available to employers, including off payroll, limited term and lump sum options.

"This means that cost-effective and sustainable GIP plans can now be developed very easily, and employees are recognising the genuine value of this benefit in a ‘state won't pay' world."

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