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One year on from lockdown: Unum reflects on what employers need to consider post-pandemic

After a full year of living and working amid periods of complete lockdown at home, it is critically important for businesses of all sizes to consider what health and wellbeing support their staff will need as the UK’s workforce embarks on a phased return to work – or home/office combination. This comes as Unum’s Value of Help research found that nearly four in ten (38%) of employers said the pandemic had prompted a review of their existing health and wellbeing strategies1.

Covid-19 has tested our physical and mental wellbeing in a number of ways like nothing before. Over 4 million people in the UK have contracted Covid-19 last year2, with many inevitably having to take time off work to recover. Indeed, new figures from the Association of British Insurers reports that over £2 million has so far been paid by the industry from individual and group income protection insurance claims, in a bid to help those who suffered a loss of income due to Covid-19.3

Given the extreme stresses that a large proportion of workforces have been put under since the 23rd of March 2020, many will naturally have concerns about returning to work as the government start to ease restrictions in the coming months.

Before looking ahead, it is key managers and HR departments use the anniversary – and today’s National Day of Reflection – to reassess their health and wellbeing strategies to ensure there are no gaps in their current employee healthcare support.

To assist with this, Unum is continuing to offer a tailored Covid support package to UK employers and workers via their Covid Hub which includes a variety of physical, mental, and practical services including:

1. Mental health services designed to provide early support so any short-term issues can be quickly addressed to prevent them from becoming longer-term problems. Its ‘mental health at work plan’ can help employers implement a mental wellbeing strategy, develop mental health awareness, encourage conversations about mental health, improve working conditions and review employee mental health and wellbeing during these uncertain times.

2. Help@hand – which provides employees and eligible family members* with fast, direct access to healthcare professionals via one easy-to-use app – whenever its needed. This includes:

    • Unlimited access to remote GPs - available all day, every day
    • Personalised mental health treatment and support with assigned therapists
    • Physiotherapy with personalised treatment plans
    • Medical second opinions with UK-based consultants
    • Life, money, and wellbeing support via an integrated Employee Assistance Programme

Unum has seen unprecedented demand for Help@hand during lockdown specifically with over 1,000 businesses registering in the past 12 months, spanning over a quarter of a million employees and their families.

3. Return to work support/absence management with tailored case management support for any employee affected with a health condition, including the effects of long COVID or the associated impact on mental, emotional and physical wellbeing (more detail at COVID-19- returning to work).

Unum also adapted its claims process to include the use of e-signatures and scanned documents to make it as easy as possible for claimants who may not be in a position to return to work after lockdown.

Glenn Thompson, Chief Distribution Officer of Unum UK, commented:

“The last year has challenged all of us like never before – and the workplace has certainly been no exception, as millions of people became remote workers overnight.

Employers have had to look for effective ways to support the health and wellbeing of their people in this new home-based working environment, and digitally enabled solutions have fast become the norm as both businesses and staff have embraced technology. Help@hand – our health and wellbeing app – has seen over 10,000 appointments booked by employees and their loved ones and having effective support in place for employees has arguably never been more important as people adapt to the new working environment.

With the end of lockdown now hopefully in sight, prioritising the health and wellbeing of our people must remain a key priority as we enter what is likely to be a very different work environment for people and businesses across the UK".

*Employees and their partner (if applicable) will be able to access all Help@hand services. Children are eligible to access the remote GP and medical second opinion services up until their 18th birthday or 24th birthday if in full-time education. Children over 18 will be able to access the Life, money and wellbeing confidential helpline and other online resources. 

1. Value of Help research by Unum UK. Interviews with 350 employers in September 2020
2. Covid-19 cases in the UK: JHU CSSE COVID-19 Data
3. ABI statistics 2021

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