Workforce Health and Wellbeing Performance Benchmarking

RSSB is piloting a benchmarking platform to promote joint learning and sharing of best practices from health and wellbeing data. Starting in July 2018, the pilot will comprise five initial participants. More rail organisations are welcome to join the 2-year pilot led by RSSB’s research team and supported by the University of Birmingham.

For every £13 lost to sickness absence, rail is spending only £1 on supporting their employee’s health.

​In a 2014 report, RSSB estimated a total annual cost of impaired health combining sickness absence and presenteeism cost to be around £790m. These high costs offer clear opportunities for rail to make savings.

The ORR drew attention to the ‘poor management’ of health in 2011 and, although there has been a step change in awareness, with many improvements, the latest 2015 ORR review shows that there is much more to do. Rail still needs to step up in many areas - an example is the lower public reporting by companies on worker health (22%) in comparison to worker and public safety (40%), despite rail employers recognising that Health and Wellbeing (H&W) should be treated ‘like safety’. Reporting publicly is an important indicator of leadership and accountability. Cross-industry data collection, monitoring, and public reporting played and is still playing a crucial role in driving safety improvements within rail. It is therefore sensible to think that we could do the same for H&W.

Currently, with inconsistent and incomplete data, rail is not equipped to manage employee health optimally, and this lack will be felt strongly in the coming years. Employee health is expected to be heavily impacted by an ageing workforce, rising chronic disease and ill-health. Moreover, the government anticipates a growing productivity deficit due to lower engagement rate of UK employees. All these factors will significantly increase the H&W cost if there is no shift to a more proactive management.

health and wellbeing performance benchmarking image

The rail industry – through RSSB, believes that the timing is right to invest in improving the proactive management of employee H&W and has made it one of its priorities. Companies engaged in a more proactive management of employee health, generally achieve better results in terms of staff absence, morale and productivity.

RSSB will develop a single non-mandatory national H&W Data Collection System and take it a step further, by providing a benchmarking platform to promote joint learning and sharing of best practices. The benefits of benchmarking lie both in the comparison of performance data itself, and in the more in-depth questions and lines of enquiry that the comparison stimulates during workshops, to help understand better how performance gaps can be closed.

Starting in July 2018, the pilot will have an initial group comprising five confirmed participants: East Midlands Trains Limited, Eurostar International Limited, High Speed 2 (HS2) Limited, Network Rail Infrastructure Limited and Siemens Rail Automation PLC. The pilot is being designed to have a good mix of companies from various rail sectors: train operator, infrastructure manager and owner, infrastructure contractor, supplier and rolling stock manufacturer. More volunteers are encouraged to join the group over the 2-year pilot led by RSSB’s research team and supported by the University of Birmingham.

The aim of the benchmarking group is to help improve our understanding of workforce health data and help management make informed decisions, collaboratively identify best practices, areas of improvement, and as a result reduce the growing H&W costs. 

Participant’s Perspective

'There is a big drive at the moment for businesses to invest in Health & Wellbeing; although the benefit of investing in employee health is well documented and will require several years to establish whether the outcome of any programme is sustainable, at the moment there isn’t a way to benchmark ourselves with other businesses in our industry. It is fundamental for businesses aiming to improve employees’ wellbeing, to be able to benchmark their data with other businesses, within and beyond the rail industry. 

We (Siemens Rail Automation) have a well-structured Health & Wellbeing Strategy in place since 2015 and although the health trends we monitor so far seem to be work in our favour, it’s vital for us to understand where we stand in comparison with other business, what is it that we do well, and why is it working better or worse than others.

It’s a great opportunity for all the business taking part in this study, not only because we can measure the outcomes of our efforts against other businesses in our industry, but also because we can seize the opportunity to share good practices and influence employee health across our industry, not just within our business.' – Nayia Solea, Occupational Health & Wellbeing Specialist, Siemens Rail Automation.

Industry Support – Health Economics Group

'We are delighted that this work is now underway. Being able to benchmark basic health-related metrics will enable rail companies to better judge how well their staff are compared to their peer group. Perhaps more importantly, it will also enable management teams and health professionals within the companies to make more informed decisions on where best to focus time and resource.' - Dr Bridget Juniper, Director at Work and Well-Being Ltd and Chair of RSSB Health Economics Group

University of Birmingham – Benchmarking Team

'Benchmarking is one of the most common and effective management techniques for improving performance – in safety, commercial, the environment and of course Health and Wellbeing. A key feature of quality benchmarking is being able to place reliance on the data that is developed from it, so that managers can make well informed decisions and defend them if necessary. The University of Birmingham’s Rail Research activity includes many benchmarking activities covering safety, operations, sustainability and engineering. In all of these the application of academic rigour, together with industry and domain experience is critical to the outcomes that are achieved. Being involved in the design and development of an active Health and Wellbeing initiative within the rail sector is very exciting for us.' - Anson Jack, Professor of International Railway Benchmarking

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