Employers using staff wellbeing schemes have been reminded of the importance of evaluating the effectiveness of their approach.

In an article for Personnel Today magazine, Dr Bridget Juniper, a chartered organisational psychologist, said the growing interest in employee wellbeing has led to a distinct rise in demand for programme evaluation.

She said this is 'long overdue' and to be welcomed, because programme holders and providers have spent too long ignoring the need to justify their strategies.

The expert stressed that employee wellbeing is a key part of organisational performance, something that users of absence management systems are likely to be aware of.

Conservative estimates suggest that impaired health within a workforce could cost companies the equivalent of 15 per cent of their total salary expenses.

"Despite this, fewer than ten per cent of employers are aware of these costs or able to determine the return they are getting from the various programmes they have in place to mitigate against them," wrote Dr Juniper.

"The main reason for this is that, historically, people have just not been asked to do this; different programme components sit within different teams, so gathering a full and comprehensive picture takes time."

This seems to be the case even in the US, where health insurance represents a major cost burden for employers.

A recent study by research firm RAND found that all of the 600 employers surveyed were confident their wellness schemes reduced absenteeism and health-related productivity losses.

However, only half had conducted an evaluation of their programme and just two per cent reported actual savings estimates.

Dr Juniper said more rigorous measures should be introduced to ensure that employee wellbeing initiatives are having the maximum impact and providing the biggest possible benefit for organisations.

According to research released by JLT Employee Benefits last summer, more than 40 per cent of employers are failing to proactively tackle staff health issues.