Wave Utilities: Getting creative to deliver workplace wellbeing on a tight budget

We started up in 2017, when the water industry deregulated, when we only had 70 employees and now have over 320 people. I had only ever worked in large corporates with large budgets, signing comprehensive occupational health contracts, including having a visiting doctor to sites and in-house physios, and the like.

Suddenly, at Wave Utilities I found myself starting from scratch as HR Director, writing policies with the CEO, Lucy Darch. I was given a blank canvas and I knew, with my background in psychology and mental health, the impact of wellbeing on absence and productivity. So I was determined to build wellbeing into the culture from the outset. But, while wellbeing was high on the priority list, we had no budget.

No budget meant thinking creatively

That meant I had to think creatively, especially in finding an alternative to occupational health, determined that there must be another way to do wellbeing for smaller organisations like ours. There is.

I found a broker (PIB Employee Benefits) who, as well as advising larger corporates, specialise in small to medium-sized companies and I explained the basics that we wanted covered and had budget for, i.e. group income protection, so that if an employee was off on long-term sick leave it would pay half their salary for up to two years.

I wanted occupational health for no money…

I joked that I basically wanted occupational health for no money! This broker surprised me by coming back to me saying she could solve my problem, and find me an alternative to occupational health, recommending I take a look at Metlife’s early intervention service, which is part of the group income protection insurance policy. While it isn’t an occupational health service, it did meet our needs.


This article was written by Jane Austin, HR Director, Wave Utilities.