Wellbeing at Work: NI Water

Northern Ireland Water (NIW) established in 2007 is a Government-owned company and one of NI’s largest employers with 1300 professional and skilled employees, supplying 560 million litres of safe drinking water and treating 320 million litres of wastewater for around two million people every day. 


Every aspect of life in Northern Ireland depends on the provision of clean drinking water and management of wastewater to safeguard health, underpin economic growth and protect the environment.

What Northern Ireland Water did

The key challenges for NIW are: an aging workforce (46% of the company are aged 50+), the prevalence of mental health issues in today’s society and safety considerations for field staff who work outside in all weather conditions.

The HR Department was challenged to create a comprehensive programme of health & wellbeing (H&WB) initiatives to attract and retain talent, reduce sick absence, improve wellness and health awareness, support older workers and increase engagement in line with NIW’s strategic objectives.

In January 2018, NIW introduced a new and unparalleled H&WB project of innovative health and wellbeing initiatives, borne out of extensive and meaningful consultation with all employees to fully understand and serve their needs in consideration of the above challenges and strategic objectives.

Physical and mental health programmes and social interventions and include:

  • A dedicated Wellbeing Works employee intranet site promoting H&WB events, information and key contacts
  • Annual Wellbeing Calendar of diverse monthly event/themes linked to significant national health campaigns and NIW specific initiatives
  • An extensive range of Mental Health Education attended by 400+ employees
  • An annual Virgin Pulse Global Fitness Challenge – NIW enrols unlimited employees in a 100-day fitness challenge complete with fit bits to achieve a daily target of 10,000 steps. This encourages fitness, teambuilding and fun in the workplace.
  • A ‘Golden Years’ programme for older workers to include education on the psychological transition from F/T work to retirement, phased retirement, post-retirement engagement, pre-retirement seminars
  • Annual Autumn Safety Campaign and 8 week Health & Wellbeing Road Show
  • Fitness activities, sports, meditation, yoga, smoking cessation/alcohol awareness courses offered
  • Launched the ‘Ready to Quit?’ smoking cessation campaign partnering with providers from health boards across eight NIW locations

Impacts and Outcomes

  • A reduction in Riddor incidents over the last 12 months with 22 days lost due to accidents against a target of 70 and a UK Water sector average of 148.
  • 75% of employees with zero absence and an overall 2018 attendance rate 14% higher than the NI Civil Service.
  • Engagement levels have increased exponentially since 2016 with a 22% increase in overall score.
  • Family-friendly policies such as Good Parenting seminars and customised working for parents have resulted in 100% return-to-work post-maternity.
  • All H&WB programmes in 2018 were oversubscribed and additional programmes added to ensure inclusion of everyone.
  • Over 200 employees volunteered to join one of our H&WB groups.
  • 202 employees aged over 60 and 32 aged over 66
  • Approximately 450 participants in the Virgin Pulse Global Fitness Challenge, 3rd place in the world for highest participation
  • 47% enjoy flexible working arrangements and a better Work/Life.
  • Reduction in stress-related absences since 2015 due to uptake by hundreds of staff with on-site dedicated counselling officer

For more information, please email Alison.sweeney@niwater.com