Defence Health

Defence Health has been selected as an Employer of Choice in The Australian Business Awards 2022. The Australian Business Award for Employer of Choice [EOC] recognises organisations that develop workplaces that maximise the full potential of their workforce through established policies and practices which demonstrate effective employee recruitment, engagement and retention.

Defence Health is a not-for-profit private health insurer, being one of the first insurers to begin operations when the National Health Act was passed in 1953. Since then, the fund has been committed to improving the health and wellbeing of the families of serving Australian Defence Force personnel and the Defence community.

The majority of employees have worked exclusively from home since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Staff have been supported with technology and appropriate equipment to work productively and safely from their home work-spaces. At 30 June 2021, 282 people (61 more than the previous year) were employed at the fund.

Defence Health is renowned for its high standards of customer service. It receives fewer complaints and has a higher retention of members than the industry average.

The fund has a strong and clearly defined culture, built around the values of trust, respect, ownership, excellence. The strength of the culture and level of staff engagement is measured in quarterly and annual staff surveys. The most recent annual survey measured engagement at 89%.

The CEO communicates with all staff regularly. His quarterly ‘live event’ briefings include information on strategic initiatives, financial and project updates and recognition of high-performers.

Women make up 62% of the workforce of Defence Health, and 55% of promotions were awarded to women in 2021. The Board of Directors is 67% women.

The skills required for every role in the company are mapped against a Competency Framework. New recruits are assessed against the framework, as well as their alignment with the company values.

Recruitment and training have continued for a second year remotely. Trainers are mindful of the large volume of complex information and the pressure on new recruits. They have concentrated on keeping training fun and engaging and survey results indicate this has been successful.  

Once inducted, Defence Health uses a blended approach to employee learning and development. The model is aligned to the Competency Framework and helps identify opportunities for individual development.

Staff have monthly one-on-one meetings with team leaders to support their development, wellbeing and continuous improvement.

Leaders support their teams through a fair and consistent understanding of the remuneration and rewards framework. In the current highly competitive employment market, Defence Health has moved to half-yearly salary benchmarking to ensure the business remains attractive within the market.

Customer-facing staff are covered under the Banking, Finance & Insurance Award and a 2019 Enterprise Agreement. The agreement includes many above-award entitlements, including higher salary and leave allowances, topped-up maternity leave payments, and ongoing superannuation contributions for the duration of paid and unpaid maternity leave.

Permanent staff are also eligible for employer-funded private health insurance.

Performance is reviewed twice yearly and salaries are reviewed annually. High performers are usually recognised with a one-off bonus and possible further increase in ongoing salary.

The leadership team had planned to return to the office in 2021, but due to new variants of COVID, that did not occur. The company responded to the ongoing challenges of working remotely with additional resources to support the Wellbeing Strategy. The strategy encompasses the five pillars of health: being financial, career, physical, mental and social health.

Staff were consulted about how they would like to emerge from the pandemic. Seventy-three percent of staff said they would prefer a hybrid approach to their work and the Executive Team has agreed to a new policy. When employees return to the office, they may choose to combine face-to-face time in the office with the flexibility of working from home.

After two years of the pandemic, the Defence Health workforce remains positive and engaged. In survey results, 96% say their manager treats them with respect, and 96% say their manager genuinely supports equality among different people in the team. Staff are proud to recommend their employer to others.

For more information about Defence Health, visit

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