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Corporate wellness: what, why not and whither?

Geraint Harvey (Department of Business, School of Management, Swansea University, Swansea, UK)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 6 June 2019

Issue publication date: 6 June 2019




The purpose of this paper is to present corporate wellness (CW) as an approach to worker well-being and as distinct from workplace health promotion (WHP). Theoretical explanations of the contribution of CW and WHP to the economic and social legitimacy objectives of human resource management (HRM) serve to elucidate this distinction and also to highlight the problematic nature of CW. An alternative approach to worker well-being, firm performance and social legitimacy of the firm is discussed.


This is a review paper that analyses research into CW as a discrete approach to the management of people and compares this body of knowledge with ancillary studies of the impact of policies more commonly aligned with HRM in order to achieve the purpose of the paper.


The review is critical of CW as a means of achieving competitive advantage through people due to the probability of dysfunctional outcomes, namely exacerbating the health and well-being of the workforce, especially the mental health of workers.

Practical implications

Due to the sizeable investment in CW programmes, the paper advocates a focus on equity in pay, employment security and employee voice as an alterative means of enhancing the health of the workforce and the performance of the organisation.


This paper elaborates on recent critiques of worker well-being programmes (see e.g. Guest, 2017), offering a comprehensive and robust theoretical framework. The paper cites extensive evidence that improved pay, employment security and an effective voice in the workplace are more effective means of meeting the needs of the firm and improving worker well-being.



The author is grateful for the pastoral guidance of the editor and review team at Employee Relations. The author would also like to thank Paul Edwards, colleagues at Work Inclusivity Research Centre at the University of Birmingham and delegates of the Work, Employment and Society Conference (2018) who attended the stream in which the author presented this paper, all of whom have contributed to its development.


Harvey, G. (2019), "Corporate wellness: what, why not and whither?", Employee Relations, Vol. 41 No. 4, pp. 638-648.



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