2021: A review



22 December 2021

2021 is drawing to a close, so now seems like a good moment to look back at some of the key Human Resources and employee benefit stories that we have featured on the Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing blog this year.

It is however important to stress that this is very much a topical blog, so some of our earlier posts have been inevitably overtaken by events, whilst others are augmented or revisited in more recent articles to reflect later information and updates. 

And of course in 2021 the news agenda has been relentlessly driven by the dual - and constantly changing - health and economic challenges caused by Covid-19.

So with the caveats out of the way, below are some of the key topics that Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing (Howden) looked at in 2021:


As the year opened Howden took a detailed look at five years of pension freedoms, and asked how well equipped savers were to take informed retirement and pension income decision following the introduction of the new rules.


The pensions theme continued in February, with proposals to raise the National Minimum Pension Age (and the subsequent government response in July also). 

Separately Howden also urged employers to consider future pandemics and health risks, and gave some thoughts as to how to create an “infection resilient” workplace.


In March Howden posed 3 key return-to-work questions for businesses (which continue to be relevant even nine months later).

Howden also encouraged employers to learn lessons from the pandemic experience.


Howden explored a new idea to combat financial worries called “social prescriptions”.

Separately we also considered how and why those nations with high Covid-19 vaccination figures were being forced to return to pandemic restrictions (something that (again) seems increasingly relevant to UK employers in December 2021).


In May Howden returned to a theme that is of growing importance to employers, Environmental, Social and corporate Governance (ESG) investments within company sponsored pension arrangements.

Another post looked at how all jobs – even those often classed as low skilled – require at least some relevant experience and/or qualifications.


June was a month of diverse topics. 

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) produced new figures around homeworking, and Howden considered how employee benefits can support this new working reality.

We also looked at how the return to work was causing many employees anxiety

And the first signs of a growing tsunami of undiagnosed and untreated health conditions were considered, not least because of the potential future absence problems for employers.


The government’s long-awaited response to the “Health is everyone’s business” consultation was published in July, and included an unexpected - but very welcome - recognition of the value of Group Income Protection arrangements. 

Our post – "Masking the anxiety" - looked at the debate about face masks, and the genuine worry it was causing some employees.

Another item compared the similarities between Corporate Social Responsibility policies and ESG concerns. 


The summer month of August provided an opportunity to look in-depth at a wide range of topics. 

Howden posted articles on Long Covid (& vaccinations), wage growth and candidate shortages, how to improve the much-maligned Fit Note, and made the case for employer-sponsored healthcare arrangements too.


By September it was clear that the cost-of-living was rapidly increasing, and this article explored the reasons behind these increases, the associated employment challenges, and the possible employer response to this issue. 

Howden also highlighted the tragic reality that there had already been far more Covid-19 related deaths in 2021 than in 2020, whilst championing the provision of Group Life Assurance arrangements to support bereaved families.


In October we took at in-depth look at UK Covid numbers, and how employers could mitigate some of the risks immediately ahead. 

We also highlighted the damaging impact of financial scams on employee wellbeing, and separately we wondered if employers were generally proactive or reactive regarding wellbeing issues. 

An article around burnout and the “always on” culture completed the topics featured in October.


As the end of the calendar year approached the pressure on NHS waiting lists was growing, and this post highlighted that around 1 in 10 of the population were already awaiting diagnoses or treatment, with that number likely to increase significantly in the months ahead.

Another major – and rather unexpected – concern was an employment candidate shortage.  This item looked at the need to upskill and retain talent, and indeed the resignation risks for those employers that don’t react to this important issue.


And in December Howden rounded up the year by looking at the always important case for business protection insurances, and also considered when the pandemic – and indeed The Coronavirus Act will – would finally reach an end point. 

And in our penultimate post of the year we looked at the progress made by the United Kingdom in combatting Covid-19 in the 12 months since Christmas last year.

So time to hang-up the Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing blog keyboard for the festive break.  See you again in 2022.

For more information on any of the above topics, please speak to your usual Howden Consultant in the first instance, or visit our website for other contact options.  

Published 22/12/21

Steve Herbert

Steve Herbert

Steve is Head of Benefits Strategy, Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing, and is an award-winning thought leader on Pensions, Employee Benefits, and Human Resources issues. He is occasionally accused of making Employee Benefits interesting.

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