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During the early industrialisation period employees at work were treated as separate
entities from their personal lives. This entailed that, whatever problems employees
faced at home it was up to the employees to solve and the employers were not
interested to asssociate work life and personal life. In South Africa, the new public
management system has increasingly since its inception, acknowleged the impact of

overall empoyees welfare on their working life. This recognition has been given further
impetus by section 26(a) of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act, 2000 (Act
No. 32 of 2000), which requires a municipality, in the drafting of its IDP, to place special
emphasis on its “most critical development and internal transformation needs. Matlala
(1999: 24) states that, failure by organisations to adopt employee wellness into their
culture will inevitably lead to the escalation of sickness and the deterioration of
organisational performance.
In the contemporary world, both private and public organisations and occupational
health practitioners are starting to adopt a proactive approach to managing employee
wellness and health matters respectively. Factors that impact on the health, safety and
wellness of employees include but are not limited to stress, substance abuse, sexual
harassment, conflict, violence, injuries and accidents. Upon realising the benefits of
employee performance management, quality circles, wellness programs in the private
sector organisations, the new Public Management emphasises the adoption of such
programs by the public sector as well. This will enable development in the private sector
to avoid outpassing service delivery by the public sector institutions.
Firstly, this assignment will extensively discuss the concept of employee wellness
highlighting the typical dimensions of wellness. Secondly, the importance of employee
wellness programs will be discussed and more specifically to public sector employees.
Thirdly examples of employee assistance programs will be relished and discussed
extensively under the public sector context.

2. An overview of employee wellness

There is no universally accepted definition of wellness. Several scholars and academics
have endeavoured to come up with their theoretical description of wellness.
Wellness is;
• a dynamic process of becoming aware of and making conscious choices
torwards a more balanced and healthy lifestyle (Chan).
• The employees’ state of optimised social, physical, and mental health and well-
• a multidimensional state of being, describing the existence of positive health in
an individual as exemplified by quality of life and a sense of well-being (Charles
B. Corbin of Arizona State University) .
• Much more than merely physical health, exercise or nutrition. It is the full
integration of states of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being

• The condition of good physical and mental health, especially when maintained
by proper diet, exercise, and habits (
• an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more
successful existence ( Where;
➢ Process means that improvement is always possible
➢ Aware means that we are continuously seeking more information
about how we can improve.
➢ Choices means that we consider a variety of options and select
those in our best interest.
➢ Success is determined by each individual to be their collection of
life accomplishments. (
Bratton and Gold (2007:503) defines wokplace wellness as any voluntary healthy
improving programme and activity, instigated by the employer to effect changes in non-
occupational health behaviours. Smoking cessation, personal fitness programs, and
employee assistance programs are early examples of workplace-improvement
initiatives. Other examples of wellness program include; a smoke-free workplace,

employer sponsored sports, discounted gym facilities, health examinations offered to

employees, ‘health fairs hosted on premises, wellness newletters, smoking cessation
incentives, weight loss incentives, bloodpresure testing, energy-based therapy
serminars and employee assistance program (EAP).
Thus wellness can be defined as a multi-dimensional state of being where individuals
become aware of and make choices toward a more successful existence by having a
more balanced and healthy lifestyle, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

3. Dimensions of wellness
There has been a general misconception that, when the concept of wellness wringles
into peoples ears it is only limited to physical wellness. Wellness exists in several
dimensions and the most notable dimensions include; social wellness, physical
wellness, emotional wellness, career wellness, intellectual wellness, environmental
wellness and spiritual wellness. The dimensions can now be discussed.
3.1 Social wellness
Social wellness is the ability to relate to and connect with other people in our world. Our
ability to establish and maintain positive relationships with family, friends and co-
workers contributes to our Social wellness. Mendoza described it as about having
satisfactory inter-personal relationships and positive interactions with others. It involves
learning social skills to develop a good support system and deep, meaningful
relationships. Having good communication and listening skills, practicing empathy and
compassion as well as caring for others can lead to more satisfying and meaningful
relationships. In turn, this can promote better health and wellness
( This entails that employees enjoying positive relationships
with other people in their working as well as outside work environment will tend to enjoy
their work life in as much as they do their personal life.
3.2 Physical wellness
Physical wellness is the ability to maintain a healthy quality of life that allows us to get
through our daily activities without undue fatigue or physical stress. The ability to
recognize that our behaviors have a significant impact on our wellness and adopting
healthful habits (routine checkups, a balanced diet, exercise, etc.) while avoiding

destructive habits (tobacco, drugs, alcohol, etc.) will lead to optimal physical wellness.
Physical wellness involves physical activity to build endurance, flexibility, strength and
fitness. It can be achieved through regular exercise, proper diet and nutrition, sleep and
rest as well as avoidance of tobacco use, drug abuse and excessive alcohol
consumption (Mendoza- Further more physical wellness can
entail the ability to stay out of preventable sicknesses, for example the deadly HIV/
AIDS pandemic, swine flu (N1H1), tuberculosis(TB) by exercising healthy living habits.
Public sector entities can do so by ensuring that, TB and swine flu employees are kept
separate from healthy employees. Smoking can also be restricted to certain places to
avoid passive smoking.
3.3 Emotional wellness
Emotional wellness is the ability to understand ourselves and cope with the challenges
life can bring. The ability to acknowledge and share feelings of anger, fear, sadness or
stress; hope, love, joy and happiness in a productive manner contributes to our
Emotional wellness (University of California Riverside- For example, how one as an individual
controls self emotions when offended by a co-worker, colleague or supervisor. The way
one reacts will determine own level of emotional wellness. Public sector employees can
maintain this by facilitating sporting activities among its employees. This helps
employees to accept the challenge of defeat and therefore helps them emotionally when
they fail to achieve targeted objectives.
3.4 Career wellness or Occupational wellness
Career wellness is the ability to get personal fulfillment from our jobs or our chosen
career fields while still maintaining balance in our lives. Our desire to contribute in our
careers to make a positive impact on the organizations we work in and to society as a
whole leads to Occupational wellness (University of California Riverside). Career
wellness in public sector can be enhanced through training and development programs.
Employees get motivated when they realize that they have an opportunity to grow
though promotions in the organization they work for.
3.5 Intellectual wellness
Intellectual wellness is the ability to open our minds to new ideas and experiences that
can be applied to personal decisions, group interaction and community betterment. The

desire to learn new concepts, improve skills and seek challenges in pursuit of lifelong
learning contributes to our Intellectual wellness (University of California Riverside).
3.6 Environmental wellness
Environmental wellness is the ability to recognize our own responsibility for the quality
of the air, the water and the land that surrounds us. The ability to make a positive impact
on the quality of our environment be it our homes, our communities or our planet
contributes to our Environmental wellness (University of California Riverside). Mendoza
sees it as involving limited exposure or satisfactory management of aspects of the
environment that can affect health and well-being, including, toxic chemicals, radiation,
biological agents, electromagnetic radiation, noise, air and water pollution, tobacco
smoke, climate change, food safety, waste disposal, hazardous materials and vector
3.7Spiritual wellness
Spiritual wellness is the ability to establish peace and harmony in our lives. The ability to
develop congruency between values and actions and to realize a common purpose that
binds creation together contributes to our Spiritual wellness (University of California
Riverside). This is done by organizations through allowing them to participate in their
religious organizations, for example Seventh Day Christians who attend church services
on Saturday will feel offended if asked to work on Saturday. Thus employees should be
valued regardless of their religious as well as belief and cultural values.
4. The Challenge to the state of wellness among public sector employees
While the concept of wellness been acknowedged above, it can be agreed that wellness
is a multi-dimensional state of being where individuals become aware of and make
choices toward a more successful existence by having a more balanced and healthy
lifestyle in inter alia proper diet, exercise, and habits.
For one one reason or the other, employees may find themselves unable to strike a
balanced and healthy lifestyle thus they find themselves in a condition opposite to
wellness. It can can be easy to note that many attributes may lead to this condition
which not only negatively affects the employee’s personal life but also the job
perfomance of the employee in the organisation. Erasmus et al (2005:399) argues that
not all absenteeism cases are related to poor physical health , some are also attitudinal.
Attitudinal cases affected by human resources management activities and practices and

a host of other external factors can also however be related to the sociological,
psychological or mental well-being of a person.
An extract from the Draft Employee Health and Wellness Strategic Framework for the
Public Service, which encapsulates where the Public Service wishes to go, reads“The
objective of this framework seeks to represent an integrated, needs‐driven, participative,
and holistic approach to Employee Health and Wellness in the Public Service. The
integrated approach to employee health, safety and wellness, recognises the
importance of individual health, safety and wellness in relation to organisational
wellness of various Public Service organisations and Agencies”(Kgang 2008). In this
case organisational wellness depends on wellness of the public sector employees, thus
the reason for existence can only be established when the employees are well in all
their human dimensions.

5. The importance of employee wellness programs to public service employees

Some studies indicate that offering EAPs may result in various benefits for employers,
including lower medical costs, reduced turnover and absenteeism, and higher employee
productivity and morale. However, there is some dispute as to whether such studies are
impartial and scientifically valid, particularly those studies performed by the EAP
providers themselves. EAPs may also provide other services to employers, such as
supervisory consultations, support to troubled work teams, training and education
programs, and critical incident services (
The broad array of services provided to employers by today's EAPs make a good
business case for external programs. External EAPs can provide more than just
psychological counseling through the integration of a host of "work/life" resources.
These kinds of resources can help employees wrestling with the associated demands of
starting a family, dealing with personal finances, legal problems or the stresses of being
a working caregiver with aging parents. A full-service, integrated external EAP can
provide all these services through one single, toll-free number that is accessible 24
hours a day and 7 days a week(
External EAPs also provide the added benefit to employees of delivering confidential
counseling services off-site, away from the eyes and ears of fellow workers, managers,

or the Human Resources department. It needs to be noted, however, that EAP services
are paid for by employers who then become the "clients" of the EAP company. A high-
quality EAP will effectively communicate to employees that the organization is
sponsoring the benefit but that it is confidential (within the scope of state and federal
laws) and free to them. These EAPs maintain a strict adherence to the concept of
serving two clients; the employer and the employee. If the employee improves as a
result of the use of this benefit, then both the employer and the employee are winners--
the employer has a good, highly motivated and high-performing employee and the
employee gains assistance with a personal problem that was previously impacting their
ability to focus on their job(
Employers realise that employee wellness improves productivity and morale and
reduces excessive absenteeism and health costs(Nel et al,2008:317). According to
Berman et al 200:194, the goals of wellness programs are to alter unhealthy personal
habits and lifestyles and to promote behaviours conducive to healthy and well-being.
Employers offer such services as health assessment (first aid and emergency), risk
appraisals, screenings (blood pressure checks, blood sugar and cholesterol checks,
injection (allergy and immunizations, and healthy and nutrition education/ counseling.
Robbins (1978:323) highlights the importance of of ensuring that the work
environmentis free of unneccessary hazards to safety, and that conditions are such that
employees are also not exposed to threats to their physical or mental health. Three
reasons namely, ethical considerations, legal cosiderations and economic
considerations were given for this imperative. Furthermore, Bratton and Gold
(2007:484) write that there are strong economic, legal, psychological and moral reasons
why managers should take health, safety and wellness issues seriously. These reasons
can now be discussed in detail and put in the public sector perspective.
5.1 Economic considerations
The economic considerations entail direct costs and indirect costs. Direct costs are
those costs related to lost production due to an accident or illness for example a
municipal engineer who can not attend to his chores because he was injured whilst
driving his personal car home under the influence of alcohol. In a more practical
example on August 27, 1999, a Pennysylvanian woman was beaten by her husband

and afterwards called the police and obtained order of protection. However the woman’s
husband continued to show up at her workplace. Meanwhile after showing up on August
30, 1999 the husband asked his wife’s managers when she was coming to work that
evening. Unfortunately the husband came back at the said time and shot her wife before
turning the gun on himself, fortunately the wife survived miraculously. She went on to
sue her emoplyer, claiming negligence in failing to call police when her husband arrrive
at the work place, failing to adequate security , and failing to implement and enforce a
domestic violence policy for abused employees (Maidment, 2005:143). Thus domestic
violence does not remain “domestic” by staying at home when its victims go to work.
Literally after this fatal incident, there can be no doubt as to how the organisation
approached its domestic violence policy after suffering direct costs for the ensuing
damages. The indirect costs include the overtime payments necessary to make up for
lost for lost production, the cost of retaining a replacement employee and the legal cost
associated with court hearings in contested cases (Bratton and Gold, 2007:484).
Considering an article titled “ Civil servants in debt trap”, 444 senior managers including
directors-general (DGs), deputy directors-general and heads of department formed part
of the 216 857 public servants who failed to service their debts during 2006/07 financial
year covered by the Public Service Report (PSC) (Sunday Times, 24 February 2008,
15:2). The report on that article raises eye-brows on varied issues. If the accounting
officers are failing to manage their own resources thereby compromising their own
welfare, how can the very same persons be able to manage the public funds with
integrity, honesty and impeccably thus without any fault of corruption. Thus in that
regard the report by the PSC urged the government to roll out a fully fledged employee-
assistance programme that focuses on the financial wellness of public servants, offering
lessons on financial management.
Erasmus et al (2005:399) write that in more recent times, however with the spiraling
costs of medical care, as well as the growing realization that absenteeism costs a lot of
money and that labour productivity must be improved, management has been
considering alternatives that may yield results superior to the reactive, minimum
legalistic approach. According to an expert on, “Health care needs total company
management”, 1993) the “direct costs of health care financing through medical aid have
been escalating at 50% above the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for several years.

Santhey (1993:14) indicates that medical costs rose beyond control over the period
1985-1990, with medical aid premiums having risen by 34%. Thus organizations have
come to realize that the costs linked to maintaining medical schemes can no longer be
afforded and therefore sustained.

5.2 Legal Considerations

Bratton and Gold (2007:484) distinguish between individual rights and collective rights.
Individual rights are those rights evolving from common law, and every employer has a
vicarious common law duty to provide a safe working environment for her or/ his
employees. Collective health and safety rights are rights that arises from the negotiated
collective agreements between unions and management. In an overwhelming display of
unity, over 150 000 workers employed by municipalities and belonging to both South
African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) and Independent Municipal and Allied
Trade Union (IMATU) across the country rejected the latest wage offer of the employer
body, South African Local Government Association-SALGA. SAMWU together with
IMATU members will embark on strike action from Monday 27 July 2009 in all
municipalities in every Province of the country ( This clearly reflects
on how government particularly local government should consider the financial wellness
of their employees (municipal workers) seriously, failure which workers would embark
on strike actions which have stalked service delivery country over with cities like
Durban, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria receiving more imminent impact. It can
be easy to imagine how cities may look like if refuse is not removed and water is not
provided in such big metropolitan cities. Legally there are also requirements placed on
the employer (public sector) by the law for example the Basic Conditions of Employment
Act (BCEA) (Act No. 75 of 1997). Chapter 3 of BCEA provides for, aspects such as
annual, sick and maternity leaves which are all important to any employees well-being
although maternity leave only applies to women who get pregnant on the working
course. Regulations on minimum wage should also be observed by all public sector
entities to avoid legal battles between the employee and the respective entity.
5.3 Psychological considerations

In Beer et al’s (1984) Human Resources Management model , it is recognised that

going beyond the the legal requirement of ‘due diligence’ a healthy organisation can
have a strong positive effect on the psychological contract by strengthening employee
commitment, motivation and loyalty. There is some evidence to indicate that work
system may have effects on physical health, mental health, and longevity of life itself
(Beer et al,1984:153).
5.4 Moral Considerations
Healthy and wellness issues have implications for corporate responsibility and
managerial ethics. In this regard, Gerwirth (1991) ,argues that those individuals who
contribute to the causation of of work related diseases for example asbestosis, lung
cancer and exposure to second hand smoke and who do so knowingly can be held to
be both causally and morally responsible for their action. Thus it is the duty of public
managers to ensure that their employees and subordinates are not unduly subjected to
situations that can lead them to illness of any nature. For example employees
responsible for refuse collection and transportation of hazardous material should be
provided with protective clothing and other mechanisms at all times to reduce their risk
and subject them to seasonal testing for infections such as Tuberculosis (TB).
Deductively, it can be stated that the need for employee wellness programs is rooted
from; economic, legal, psychological and moral considerations. Holistically, the following
important factors can be summarised to be important for public sector to prioritise
wellness programs:

• Promote better health.

• Motivate employees through education to choose and follw a health lifestyle.
• Reduce employee absenteeism.
• Reduce health and injury costs.
• Provide an evironment which supports healthy lifestyle choices.
• Avoid legal battles with employees.
• Strengthening the psychological contract which increases employees

The above can be achieved through Employee Assistance Programs, which can
now be discussed.

6. Employee Assistance programs (EAP’s)

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are employee benefit programs offered by
many employers, typically in conjunction with a health insurance plan. EAPs are
intended to help employees deal with personal problems that might adversely impact
their work performance, health, and well-being. EAPs generally include assessment,
short-term counseling and referral services for employees and their household
members ( Nel et al (2008:318) defines an Employee Assistance
Programme (EAP) as a structured intervention that offers a broad range of services
aimed at identifyng individual problems, such as substance abuse and financial,
relationship, and mental problems that adversely affect employee well-being and job
Although EAPs tend to take on different forms in different organisations, they are
broadly used to; deal with the HIV/ Aids pandemic, reduce excessive substance abuse,
eliminate all forms of harassment including sexual and racial harassment, avoid
situations where there is propensity for violence, conflict and rage(Nel et al, 2008:318).
The issues for which EAPs provide support vary, but examples include
• Substance abuse
• Safe working environment
• Emotional distress
• major life events, including births, accidents and deaths
• health care concerns
• financial or legal concerns
• family/personal relationship issues
• work relationship issues
• concerns about aging parents (
The 2004 State of the Public Service(SOPS) Report observed and suggested that,
HIV/AIDS threatens to place enormous pressure on the workplace. In 2005, the State of

the Public Service (SOPS) Report of that same year revealed that a study estimated
that 10% of public servants may be be affected by AIDS , with a quarter possibly in
2012. It was further observed and suggested that EAPs are still weakly integrated into
programs such as HIV and AIDS in the SOPS report of 2006 while the 2007 SOPS
report suggests that a richer appreciation from human resources components is needed
of the strategic importance of their functions to the functioning of departments. The
2008 SOPS report outlines that the scourge of HIV/AIDS is a recurring challenge for
the Public Service and that it needs to be concerned as it is the largest employer in the
country. In 2004, HIV prevalence rate amongst educators in in public shools was 12.7%
or around 50 000 educators (2008 State of the Public Service Report). The exposition
clearly larments the fact that a considerable proportion of the public sector employees
employees face a challenge on their health thus health wellness which in turn affect the
other dimensions of wellness. Thus having witnessed sympotoms and effects of AIDS
on employees in the past, it can be easy to imagine that the infected public service
sector employees will be further incapacitated to carry out their normal duties while
complete service may be lost when they die hence the need to ensure that their
physical wellness is cutioned against HIV/AIDS.
7. Counselling
Cloete (1985: 214) writes that counselling takes place everywhere, where only two
people are present. Cloete argues that if three or more are present, it becomes a
meeting and personal matters can not be discussed openly. Counsellor must not
interfere in the private life affairs of an employee except where the private affairs have a
detrimental influence on the employee’s matters often subjects of counselling.
According to Cloete (1985: 216), the follwing matters are ooften subjects of counselling;
• physical illness (only healthy workers can perform their work properly).
• merit rating/ approval (requires supervisors to discuss with subordinates the
performance quantitatively and qualitatively expected of them.
• Psychological and emotional troubles( requires supervisors through sensitive
discussions and counselling, to protect their subordinates against stress).

• Abuse of alcohol and drug abuse (requires that supervisors advise their
subordinates wth insight and see to it that they obtain expert assistance and
treatment where necessary).
• Prevention of accidents( requires supervisors to utilise all opportunities to
counsel subordinates who appear to be prone to accidents and injuries).
• Discipline (requires supervisors to discuss unacceptable behaviour with
subordinates to prevent misconduct for which the subordinates will have to be
• Absenteeism(require supervisors to discuss this matter with subordinates in
order to ascertain the reasons for the absences from work and and to find and
apply remedial measures.
8. Medical Examinations prior to employment
Government Employees Medical Schemes (GEMS) has already, by virtue of the
services it provides to over 250,000 employees, begun to contribute meaningfully to the
health status of public service employees. The medical needs of employees enrolled on
GEMS are being met (claims are being paid). Detailed health risk analyses for each
Government department give representative indicators of the health status of each
Many of the interventions required to mitigate the clinical risk facing these departments

is available through GEMS. GEMS high risk, compliance management and disease
management programmes aim to modify behaviour and improve outcomes
substantially. In terms of HIV the Scheme has implemented, in addition to the disease
management programme, communication campaigns aimed at the workplace to:

• Encourage testing;
• Promote understanding of the benefits of the HIV disease management program;
• Make employees aware of how to access these benefits; and
• Stress the importance of registering as early as possible on the program (Kgang,
9. Conclusion

It can be argued that human resources is the greatest resource that any organisation
can have, be it a public or private organisation. This is supported by the fact that all
other resources in an organisation for example financial, materials and assets require
the attention of staff members or employees without which the resources becomes
futile. The argument however only holds water if human resources are well managed in
the organisation. In this assignment wellness of employees has been discussed as a
critical element of employees’ lives. The seven dimensions; social, physical, emotional,
career, intellectual and spiritual (SPECIES-acronym) wellness were discussed. The
Challenge to the state of wellness among employees, the importance of employee
wellness programs to public service employees, and employee assistance programs
(EAP’s) were also discussed. To give specific clarity on the importance of wellness
programs, the four consideration; economic, legal, moral and psychological were
extensively discussed using applicable examples.It has been shown through examples
that the wellness of public sector wellness if not properly managed affects their job
performance and ultimately the level of service delivery. Also it has been realised that,
compromising the well being of employees will increase the costs of recruiting new
employees and treating for preventable diseases like TB and swine flu (N1H1).

Reference List
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Evan M. Berman, James S. Bowman, Jonathan P. West, Montgomery Van Wart.
Human resource management in public service. SAGE Publishers
Maidment F.H. 2005. Employers May Face Liability When Domestic Violence Comes to
Work. Annual Editions, Human Resources 05/06 Article 34 McGraw-Hill/Dushkin
Nel P.S, Werner A, Haasbroek, G.D, Poisat P, Sono T and Schultz H.B (2008). Human
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Robbins, S.P. 1978. Personnel: The Management of Human Resources. Englewood
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