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Health on Demand

Bring health and wellbeing within reach for your entire workforce

Learn how to understand your employees' needs, flip the pyramid, and take a step-by-step approach to introducing benefits. Create an inclusive employee benefits program that will improve the health and well-being of your entire workforce.
A father sits at a long dining table in a stylish domestic kitchen. One of his children sits on his lap, and the other sits on a chair. He talks to them as they enjoy a snack.

When it comes to effective health and risk protection, there is no such thing as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

Employees’ health needs vary widely – what is suitable for a married employee nearing retirement will be very different from the needs of a single parent with young children or a Gen Z employee just starting their career and yet employers and government-funded health coverage quite often offer a single, standard benefits package across the majority of their workforce. For many employees, this means a significant mismatch between the health coverage they need and the health coverage they receive.

This divergence creates a health and risk protection gap. A majority of men, full-time workers, high earners, and married individuals with children say that the benefits they receive meet their needs; however, women, LGBTQ+ employees, low earners, and single parents are less likely to agree. For example, our Health on Demand 2023 global workforce research found that more than a quarter (26%) of women, and almost a third (32%) of single mothers, are not confident they can afford the healthcare that they and their family need.

Caring employers have an enormous impact on people’s lives

When people thrive, so do organizations and societies. Yet employees can only perform their best at work when their employer cares about their well-being and provides benefits that meet their healthcare needs.

While 88% of companies consider themselves to be ‘caring’, only two-thirds (66%) of employees believe their employers care about their health and wellbeing, as shown in Health on Demand 2023. This percentage drops considerably when looking at the different workforce groups most affected by the health and risk protection gap – particularly those who identify as physically or mentally unwell.

Employers need to address this workforce health disparity to enable employees to thrive. They should offer a compelling work/life experience to all their employees – and this includes providing a healthy workplace and comprehensive wellbeing benefits to everyone across the business. Benefits programs can be built on a framework that promotes inclusivity with packages designed to meet the needs of everyone, not just a select few. 

What can employers do to ensure their employee value proposition meets the needs of all of the different groups within their organization?


1. Understand employees’ needs

There are no shortcuts here. Employee listening is key to learning about employees’ health concerns. Organizations should consider assessing employees across all life stages and target specific groups – such as unwell individuals, women and LGBTQ+ employees – to determine what they are missing.

For example, our Health on Demand 2023 data shows that:

  • Women highly value ‘menopause support’
  • Unwell staff value ‘free or subsidized food, transportation or housing’, along with ‘training to recognize and address their own and others’ mental health challenges’
  • LGBTQ+ employees value ‘apps and devices to help self-manage health conditions’

2. Flip the pyramid

Too often, those at the top of the organization receive the most benefits, while those lower down miss out. Our Health on Demand data demonstrates this: 40% of employees in the top band of household income (eight times the median) receive between five and nine employer benefits, 18% receive ten or more, while 39% of those in the bottom band for HHI (less than 20% of the median) receive no benefits from their employer at all.

Employers should acknowledge that there may be some within their workforce who are living below the poverty line, coming into work ill due to socioeconomic factors or worried about, or not able to fund, their basic healthcare. Such factors could lead to long-term sick leave, which given current labor shortages could create an undesired domino effect. These vulnerable groups can benefit most from being given access to a more extensive range of healthcare benefits. In essence, employers should ‘flip the pyramid’ to become an inclusive employer of choice.

Given today’s budget realities, it’s natural for the C-suite to question the value of increasing their well-being spend. They may be hesitant to open benefits eligibility to those without access today, especially in markets where providing benefits to part-time, temporary, contract/gig, or even blue-collar workers is not market practice. However, they do not need to do this all at once: there are still plenty of opportunities to introduce benefits over time and in a cost-effective manner. Indeed, employers should be discerning in terms of choosing solutions that will be valued by employees – and this may mean focusing their efforts on those facing the widest gaps in their health coverage. 

A sensible, step-by-step approach might involve introducing relatively low-cost items such as savings plans, financial education and healthy meal access up front, before adding more expensive features like employer-funded telemedicine, EAPs, health screenings and on-site day care later on. 

Actions for employers: Successfully bring health and well-being within reach for all

  • Get to know your employees: use focus groups and safe spaces to see what these groups need from their benefits experience; ask them what is important to their health and how they would like to access benefits
  • Educate decision-makers and the C-suite about the unmet needs of different groups
  • Look beyond market practice: support the most vulnerable groups in your workforce
  • Ensure that adequate benefits and preventive care coverage is in place for disadvantaged groups, low-wage workers and women
  • Consider dealing with multiple providers to ensure universal coverage and access
  • Establish minimum benefit standards for all, including traditional items (for example, insurance) and innovative support (for example,  food subsidies)

A powerful opportunity for employers to make a difference

As the cost of healthcare continues to rise, more and more employees are relying on their employers to provide access to the products and services they need to keep themselves and their families fit and well.

Employers have an opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of their employees, their employees’ families and societies as a whole. By offering inclusive benefits that employees truly value, organizations can become an employer of choice. At the very least, employers should ensure that every employee has access to basic needs, such as healthcare or sick pay.

Employers do not have to do all of this at once – it can be a multiyear journey. After all, the health and resilience of the workforce means the health and resilience of their business. 

Meet the authors

Vickki Walton

Vikki Walton

Health Equity Leader, US Mercer

  • United States

Peter Abelskamp

Peter Ableskamp

Partner and Business Leader, Netherlands Mercer Marsh Benefits