The role of the employer in employee wellbeing

The role of the employer in employee wellbeing
The role of the employer in employee wellbeing

posted 04 Apr 24

Promoting employee wellbeing can help prevent stress and create positive working environments where individuals and organisations can thrive. But how should employers approach employee wellbeing?

The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Your health and wellbeing strategy will be unique to the needs of your business and workforce, and ultimately, to be effective, it needs to go far beyond a series of standalone initiatives. All stakeholders must take responsibility for an actively participate in cultivating a healthy workplace.

The CIPD has identified a range of interrelated pillars of employee wellbeing for employers to consider. The underlying elements include examples of workplace initiatives and activities which support people's health and wellbeing.


  • Physical health - Health promotion, good rehabilitation practices, health checks, wellbeing benefits, health insurance protection, managing disability, occupational health support, and an employee assistance programme. 
  • Physical safety - Safe working practices, safe equipment, and personal safety training. 
  • Mental health - Stress management, risk assessments, conflict resolution training, training line managers to have difficult conversations, managing mental ill health, occupational health support, and an employee assistance programme. 

Good work

  • Working environment - Ergonomically designed working areas and an open and inclusive culture. 
  • Good line management - Effective people management policies, training for line managers, and sickness absence management. 
  • Work demands - Job design, job roles, job quality, workload, working hours, job satisfaction, and work-life balance. 
  • Autonomy - Control, innovation, and whistleblowing. 
  • Change management - Communication, involvement, and leadership. 
  • Pay and reward - Fair and transparent remuneration practices and non-financial recognition.


  • Leadership - Values-based leadership, clear mission and objectives, health and wellbeing strategy, corporate governance, and building trust. 
  • Ethical standards - Dignity at work, corporate social responsibility, community investment, and volunteering. 
  • Inclusion and diversity - Valuing differences, cultural engagement, and training for employees and managers.


  • Employee voice - Communication, consultation, genuine dialogue, and involvement in decision making. 
  • Positive relationships - Management style, teamwork, healthy relationships with peers and managers, and dignity and respect.  

Personal growth

  • Career development - Mentoring, coaching, performance management, performance development plans, skills utilisation, and succession planning. 
  • Emotional - Positive relationships, personal resilience training, and financial wellbeing. 
  • Lifelong learning - Performance development plans, access to training, mid-career review, technical and vocational learning, and challenging work. 
  • Creativity - Open and collaborative culture, and innovation workshops.

Good lifestyle choices

  • Physical activity - Walking clubs, lunchtime yoga, and charity walks. 
  • Healthy eating - Recipe clubs and healthy menu choices in the canteen. 

Financial wellbeing

  • Fair pay and benefit policies - Pay rates above the statutory National Minimum/Living Wage, and flexible benefits scheme. 
  • Retirement planning - Phased retirement such as a three- or four-day week, and pre-retirement courses for people approaching retirement. 
  • Employee financial support - Employee assistance programme offering debt counselling, signposting to external sources of free advice (for example, Citizens Advice), and access to independent financial advisers.

Who is responsible for fostering wellbeing?  

Everyone is responsible for fostering wellbeing. However, adopting an organisational approach to employee wellbeing carries distinct responsibilities for the following employee groups. 

  • People professionals

People professionals have a lead role in steering the health and wellbeing agenda. They must ensure that senior managers, typically responsible for implementing people management and policies, regard it as a priority and integrate practices into day-to-day operations. Working closely with all business areas to provide practical guidance that ensures policies and practices are implemented consistently and with compassion.

  • Senior Managers

Lack of senior management commitment to wellbeing can be a major barrier to implementation. Senior managers are crucial role models as line managers and employees are more likely to engage with wellbeing interventions if senior leaders actively participate. Senior managers have the authority and influence to ensure wellbeing is a strategic priority in the organisation’s day-to-day operations and culture. 

  • Line Managers

Managers are key to fostering healthy behaviour at work as they are responsible for the day-to-day management of employees’ health and wellbeing. For example, identifying early warning signs of stress, making supportive adjustments at work, and nurturing positive relationships.   

Despite this, the CIPD reports that 26% of workers blame ‘poor management style’ as the cause of work-related stress, showing how harmful the impact can be if managers are not competent or confident to go about their people management role effectively. 

  • Occupational health

Occupational health (OH) is about how work affects a person’s health and how someone’s health affects their work. OH practitioners should work closely with people professionals and those responsible for health, wellbeing and workplace safety.

Most organisations outsource their OH function, and some will engage with a commercial provider as and when needed. A minority of large organisations will have an in-house OH service, depending on the size of the business and the nature of the work.  

  • Human resources

Human resources (HR) are responsible for defining, shaping, and implementing an effective wellbeing strategy. Ensuring employees have the support and resources they need, including policies, compliance, benefits administration, training and education, and employee assistance.  

When developing the strategy, HR teams must use demographic insights to ensure it meets the diverse needs of their workforce and monitor its effectiveness through employee surveys, feedback mechanisms, and other tools.    

  • Employees 

Employees should also look after their health and wellbeing outside of work to benefit from workplace initiatives. To encourage this, employers should communicate how staff can access support and benefits available, alongside requesting employee feedback to shape existing and future initiatives. 

If you are serious about employee wellbeing and involving stakeholders within your business, read our recent article ‘Five workplace wellbeing trends in 2024’ and learn how to approach this holistically.