Sponsored content is premium paid-for content produced by the Irish Times Content Studio on behalf of commercial clients. The Irish Times newsroom or other editorial departments are not involved in the production of sponsored content.

Winners of Ibec’s KeepWell Mark Best in Class awards unveiled

‘It’s important to celebrate wellbeing and recognise the commitment and effort put in by companies over a number of years’

The winners of Ibec’s KeepWell Mark Best in Class awards for 2023 were announced last week. The KeepWell Mark is an evidence-based accreditation that recognises and celebrates organisations that put the wellbeing of employees at the forefront of company policy.

Horse Racing Ireland won the SME category and Oracle EMEA came out tops in the large company category. William Fry took the Best in Class for Mental Health award; the Best in Class Leadership award went to Fexco; Best in Class Nutrition went to Teva Pharmaceuticals; while Cork County Council took the honours for Best in Class Physical Activity.

In addition, Ibec launched the Top 100 Companies Leading in Wellbeing Index 2023 at its annual Leading in Wellbeing Lunch.

The events also marked Ibec’s ninth National Workplace Wellbeing Day on Friday, April 28th. “The purpose of National Workplace Wellbeing Day is to raise awareness of the importance of wellbeing in the workplace at a national level, to educate all stakeholders and help employers evolve and excel in their wellbeing strategies,” says Ibec KeepWell Mark programme manager Sophie Moran.


“This is the third year of the Top 100 Companies index,” she adds. “The index includes companies from all sectors which are leading the way in the Keepwell Mark accreditation programmes. The commonality between them is that they are all committed to the wellbeing of their employees and to embedding wellbeing in their business strategy.”

The awards and the index serve a valuable purpose. “It’s important to celebrate wellbeing and recognise the commitment and effort put in by companies over a number of years,” says Moran. “The KeepWell Mark was launched in 2017 and this year was our ninth National Workplace Wellbeing Day.”

One of the aims of the day is to give employers a platform to showcase the wellbeing supports and activities available to employees throughout the year. “Most companies understand that it is not a tick the box once-off exercise where they put out the fruit bowls for a day and it’s done,” says Moran. “They know that it is a long-term commitment and that the day provides an opportunity to communicate that to their employees.”

The KeepWell Awards recognise that long-term commitment. “We are thrilled to receive the Ibec Company of the Year (SME) Best in Class Award,” says Carol Nolan, director of people and Equuip at Horse Racing Ireland. “We began our accreditation journey back in 2020. The KeepWell Mark created an opportunity for HRI to create an environment that is supportive and inclusive, and positively impacts the wellbeing of all our employees and the wider horse racing and breeding industry.”

The KeepWell Mark has provided William Fry with a valuable framework to build best practice and benchmark its own progress and areas for improvement, according to head of HR Steph Atkinson. “Our mental health allies, leaders and sponsors are passionate about embedding mental health in our culture and reducing the associated stigma in the workplace.”

Sean Walsh, senior director and site EHS lead with Best in Class Nutrition winner Teva Pharmaceuticals, says the award recognises the company’s efforts to provide its employees with balanced and nutritious meals. “Through our wellbeing at work programme, we endeavour to provide our staff with the information they need to make healthy choices both in and outside of the workplace via webinars, information sessions and nutrition plans.”

“Fexco has a proud history and culture built around the diverse nature of our employees and the communities we have served over 40 years,” says group HR director Paula O’Sullivan. “We ensure that our policies and practices promote an open culture and strive to inspire all our employees to create an equitable and inclusive environment.”

Tim Lucey, chief executive of Best in Class Physical Activity winner Cork County Council, says the organisation provides opportunities for employees to incorporate physical activity into their daily working lives. “We continually highlight the benefits of exercise in terms of overall wellbeing while we also challenge ourselves to provide a variety of activities based on staff feedback and participation.”

Moran believes the achievements of these organisations and others on the Top 100 index are evidence of a growing maturity when it comes to wellbeing. “We are seeing a shift from what might have initially been a risk-management focused approach to health and wellbeing, to a value-driven approach where an organisation can see beyond the more obvious benefits such as reduced sickness absence to enhanced culture and improved talent attraction and retention. For some businesses, it’s part of a move to redefining how they do business with a much greater focus on people. We are also seeing much higher engagement of leaders in our KeepWell assessment process now, compared to a couple of years ago. And we have some businesses that are embedding wellbeing as a core competency in leadership development programmes.”