Nominee/entrant details


Organisation details

Size: 1,000-4,999 staff

Industry: Financial and Insurance Services

Organisation background

Founded in 2006 in New Zealand, Xero rates among the fastest growing software service companies globally. We lead New Zealand, Australian, and United Kingdom cloud accounting markets, employing a world-class team of more 3,500+ . Forbes identified Xero as the World’s Most Innovative Growth Company in 2014 and 2015. Xero has 2.7M+ subscribers in more than 180 countries. Our user centric, design focused cloud-based accounting software connects people with the right numbers anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Executive summary

The Xero Assistance Programme (XAP) provides free and confidential wellbeing support through Xero’s own provider, Benestar. Launched to give small businesses access to an Employment Assistance Programme (EAP), XAP provides practical guidance to help manage personal and work issues. As of July 2021, XAP is available to more than one million Kiwi small business owners, their employees and their families. The Benestar platform is flexible enough to suit their needs, allowing access to counselling in a way that best suits them - be it in person, over the phone, online via video or live chat.

Background on situation and opportunity

Mental health continues to be a major topic of focus across New Zealand, with an estimated 25 percent of the workforce diagnosed with mental health issues. The government’s Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry highlighted the critical role that workplaces play in promoting mental health and wellbeing. It noted the need for programmes to reduce stress among employees. The Xero Assistance Programme was seen as an opportunity to help meet some of that need, involving not only Xero employees but our customers and partners (accountants and bookkeepers) as well. COVID-19 accelerated this need to critical status.


Being a small business owner is tough. It comes with constant financial pressure and the need to maintain cash flow. Many small business owners work six or seven days a week just to keep up. Likewise, accountants and bookkeepers often take on a lot of pressure on behalf of their small business clients. Xero wanted to offer its customers mental wellbeing support in the form of an EAP programme, which employees of big businesses often have free access to, but those of small businesses don’t. The Xero Assistance Programme, or XAP for short, would be available to all our accounting and bookkeeping partners, their employees and their families, as well as Xero subscribers on a starter, standard or premium plan, and their staff and families too. Xero’s accounting and bookkeeping partners would also be able to direct their clients to XAP so they could talk to a professional counsellor rather than unloading all their problems onto their advisor. XAP offers free and confidential counselling support and resources, provided by Benestar. The access can be face-to-face, telephone, online or live chat counselling. Users also get access to a wide range of resources through the BeneHub and Benestar’s mobile app to help maintain mental fitness.


Initially XAP was made available free of charge through Xero’s global provider, Benestar to 5,000 small business owners, their employees and their families. Users had access to face-to-face, telephone and online counselling, as well as the Benehub and Benestar app. When the pandemic resulted in an Alert Level Four lockdown, our people's mental health had to be our highest priority in the face of unprecedented uncertainty. We also knew the impact XAP was already having, so decided to double down on mental health support. Many business owners don’t know where to start with providing mental health support to their employees. Our hope was that employers would start using XAP and other employee assistance programmes as a preventative measure for support, rather than just directing people to these services when in crisis. We saw this as one way business owners could have a considerable impact on improving mental wellness in the country. To date, there are now more than one million Kiwis who are eligible for XAP.

Engagement and communication

d via the media, but we took it a step further. Due to the restrictions of the Alert Level Four lockdown, Xero MD Craig Hudson reminded Kiwis about XAP from his back yard via social media. Holding the family dog, Craig addressed the mental health issues that many people were facing. Whether it be issues with our own health or that of our whanau, concerns over the economy, the sense of isolation being felt or the management of multiple and competing demands while being confined together under one roof. He acknowledged that the pressure might feel overwhelming. He confirmed that he had used the service, as had his family, and had found the free and confidential service incredibly useful. He emphasised that there was no better time than “now” to talk, regardless of where you thought you might be on the mental health spectrum. He encouraged everyone to spread the news about the availability of XAP in the hope that it would deliver for Kiwis in desperate need for mental health support. This level of vulnerability on display allowed Craig to engage honestly with the widest possible group on a critical but highly personal topic. His encouragement to use XAP as well as promote its availability only strengthened this as the engagement turned into effective and empathetic empowerment.


We measure awareness of the XAP programme amongst our small business customers to assess its impact. Brand Vibrancy from May shows 37% of small businesses knew about XAP (this figure was 36% for sole traders, 45% for those with 1-4 employees and 40% for those with 5+ employees). We have received feedback from Kiwis across the country who have credited XAP for being a supportive lifeline when they had nowhere else to turn. Confidential feedback shows the service is helping Kiwis get much-needed help: “This is an extraordinary initiative. I’ve been looking at ways to offer our team an EAP type programme and haven’t been able to make it work.” “What amazing assistance to provide. Particularly during these uncertain times it is important everyone has access to support.” “Thanks for running this programme, it is absolutely amazing and next level in terms of going the extra mile for your clients, and doing your bit for society.” “It's so fantastic that you offer this service free and I'm sure that our team of 10 will be really thankful to know this is available.” “I wanted to say thank you so much for the support I received from XAP. If I didn’t receive help that day, I wouldn’t be here today.” “I can’t tell you how grateful I am that Xero offers this. I’m sure it makes a huge difference to everyone who uses it.”


He aha te mea nui o te ao? What is the most important thing in the world? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. It is people, it is people, it is people. XAP demonstrates this well known Māori phrase in action. In recognition that we live in a cyclical eco-system, our commitment to inclusion was to have the programme available to as many people as possible. In fact, more than one million Kiwis are currently eligible for counselling and support through XAP.

Innovation and creativity

XAP represents one of the largest initiatives by a corporate to provide free and confidential counselling services to more than one million individuals across the country. It is the first instance where a company has made services available to its customers, rather than just its employees. We took this innovative and creative approach to underscore Xero’s true support of mental health, proving that it is more than just a company value displayed on a wall or presented at all staff meetings. Our key objective is to have the greatest impact possible on the mental wellbeing of as many Kiwis as possible. XAP is our foundational programme. But we are innovating and extending its impact. In the past nine months, we have delivered: - The Check In - an easy guide to help SMEs and accountants and bookkeepers have conversations with their staff to check in on their mental wellbeing - The Agri Check In - a version of The Check In specifically designed to support the Agri community - The Next Level - a report highlighting NZIER research proving that an investment in wellbeing can provide a 12x return on investment in productivity. All of these resources circle back to XAP and how to access it.

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Referee details

Natalie Weber-Benning, Head of Communications (Xero)

02102619604 • [email protected]

Key contact

Adam Warin, Senior Account Manager (Pead)

02102901388 • [email protected]

3 Months
Since posted
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