Learning the lessons?



24 March 2021


“We've been hit hard and paid a hefty price. One of the worst things we can do is when this is over, we just go back to normal. If you don't learn from it, then history will repeat itself."

So said Professor Dale Fisher at the end of this week’s Panorama special; “Who got it right?”, a BBC programme which took an in-depth look at the responses of different countries and regions to the challenges of COVID-19. 

And in my opinion Professor Fisher is entirely right.  As awful as the last year has been, it does at least provide us with an opportunity to learn what worked well and what perhaps didn’t.  Because it is already very clear that the approach of some nations resulted in far fewer infections and deaths than many European countries have been able to achieve. 

International comparisons

For instance the combined COVID-19 death toll of South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand stood at 11,457 as of Tuesday this week.  This compares to the total deaths in the United Kingdom alone of 126,155. 

It’s a massive variance in outcomes, and certainly suggestive of different approaches potentially yielding far better results.  And, given that the UK population is only a third of the size of the combined total of the nations listed, this also suggests there are potentially important lessons to be learned here.

Of course some of this disparity might well be down to geographical location, national culture, or possibly the pre-pandemic health of each nation and its people.  But surely there is more to such a sizable difference in outcomes than that alone?

What did Panorama find?

And it is exactly this question that Panorama was looking into on Monday evening.

Having now watched the programme twice – and having read this article from the BBC website too – my three good-practice takeaways are:

  1. Take early, swift, and decisive action
  2. Communicate those actions and expectations clearly
  3. Utilise resources that were already in place prior to the pandemic

Pretty much every nation that achieved a good - or at least less bad - outcome during the first year of the pandemic delivered on at least two of the above three criteria. 

Employers can learn from this

These key steps can also act as useful guidance to employers too.

Indeed, as we pointed out in this post last month, employers should now ideally be looking to establish not just a Covid-secure policy, but also a wider infection-secure policy to combat the increasing risks of future epidemics and pandemics in the years ahead.  And the three lessons listed earlier can and should be included in such a policy so that it can be quickly and effectively introduced to protect employees, suppliers, and clients.

And employers also now have an opportunity to ensure that they have all the tools and resources in place to help with such a policy too.   

Key components of an infection-secure plan might well include the following options that are often provided as part of robust Employee Benefits offering:

  • Remote GP appointments
  • Employee Assistance Plan
  • Group Life Assurance
  • Group Income Protection
  • Access to Private Medical treatments & diagnosis

The above is quite an achievable list for most employers to offer, and for many it will just be a question of refining and extending coverage to all employees. 

So as the reduction in UK Covid infection and death rates (hopefully) continues, I would encourage many more employers to undertake a review of their Employee Benefits offering to ensure that the above tools are available to all employees both for everyday use and/or in the event of a resurgence of COVID-19 or a future epidemic outbreak.

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. For the latest details on COVID-19 & Employee Benefits provision please visit our coronavirus hub.

(Published 24/03/21)

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.

Steve Herbert

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