It’s heartening to know that many companies are now taking the health and well-being of their employees seriously by implementing well-being programs. Considering that providing medical checks, vaccinations, fitness programs, and even gym memberships were hardly a priority in the past, these programs that help ensure a healthy workforce are a welcome addition in the lives of employees of all ages and rank.
However, for all the benefits that well-being programs offer employees, they should not be the end-all and be-all of an organisation’s WHS or Work Health and Safety management system. Unfortunately, many employers today seem to put a lot more emphasis on well-being programs than those that concern overall workplace safety.
Employers prioritise well-being programs
To be clear, well-being programs are well-meaning, but they have the potential to give rise to a culture where one’s health, safety and well-being is more of an individual effort than one that requires teamwork and cooperation. Well-being programs impress upon individuals that their own health and safety is their own responsibility. Considering that WHS is built around mutual support, broad consultation, interactive supervision, and the prevention of harm, well-being programs — as they are being implemented today — run contrary to an employer’s responsibility as stipulated in laws covering WHS.
It’s not really surprising why many employers are under the impression that well-being programs are a cure-all for any WHS-related concerns, because that is how they were presented or marketed. With such promises, many leaders of organisations were only all-too eager to perceive these problems as originating from the individual, not the workplace as a whole. Their perception is that as long as the individual problems are solved, WHS problems get fixed too, which is not really the case, once you factor in the fact that it is not the “safe system of work” that WHS laws require.
Well-being programs will always be welcome in any workplace, but it should never be prioritised over work safety programs like on-site drug testing. At best, a well-being program should be treated as one important part of a well-developed and maintained WHS management system. There is no doubt that well-being programs are great, but they, in the end, are just one factor in achieving a healthy, well and safe workplace.