Small business employees

How wellbeing support impacts absences at small businesses

Sickness absence generally hits small and medium-sized businesses harder than larger competitors.

There may only be one or two people with a particular skillset in the organisation, so absence can cause gaps in experience and expertise. There may also be financial implications, from sickness absence costs, expensive external cover and a hit to productivity.

It’s therefore particularly important for small businesses to manage sickness absence. One option is tapping into support often available to employees covered by employee benefits focusing on prevention, early intervention and employee resilience.

Here's how one company embraced the wellbeing services available at no additional cost to employees covered by their Unum Group Income Protection (GIP).

Business meeting

The business

The BBI Group offers a portfolio of products and services to the diagnostic and life science industries worldwide. The company has served the global diagnostics industry for over 50 years and is the world’s largest independent producers of immunodiagnostic reagents. 

They also apply their expertise to delivering solutions that bring critical components together in the design, development and manufacture of point of care or diagnostic test. Their UK operation employs just under 350 employees, who have access to a range of employee benefits, including Group Income Protection (GIP).

The situation

BBI’s GIP policy offers financial support to ill or injured employees if they cannot work for the period outlined in their policy, by paying a proportion of their salary. However, BBI also recognised that proactive wellbeing support is not only the right thing to provide employees but can also reduce the impact of sickness absence and increase engagement and retention.

That’s why BBI’s wellbeing strategy focuses on three pillars: Supporting employees’ physical, mental and financial wellbeing. While BBI already had initiatives in place, such as a network of Mental Health First Aiders, they wanted to go further, understanding that mental health issues are a key wellbeing focus — now more than ever.  

Benefits to employees and preventing sickness absence

BBI worked with Unum’s Vocational Rehabilitation team, who undertook a Mental Health and Wellbeing Consultation. This helped BBI understand the best way to use our range of health and wellbeing support, guidance and expertise and achieve their wellbeing objectives.

Unum's Health and Wellbeing Support

Man scrolling on his phone

Help@hand

We recommended BBI register for Help@hand¹, the health and wellbeing app from Unum powered by Square Health, which gives employees covered by BBI’s GIP policy and their families² access to six wellbeing services at no additional cost.

  1. A 24/7 digital GP
  2. Mental health support
  3. Physiotherapy*
  4. Second medical opinions **
  5. An employee assistance programme (EAP) offering life, money and wellbeing support 
  6. An integrated Wellbeing Calendar


Learn more
LifeWorks mobile app

LifeWorks EAP

LifeWorks¹ helps employees and their immediate family with fast access to help managing everyday life issues to reduce their impact on employee wellbeing — and the business. We recommended they sign up to LifeWorks to receive the support available, including a confidential 24/7 helpline, access to counselling, health and fitness plans, nutrition guidance and more.

Two ladies training

‘On Course': Line manager and employee training

To enable managers to spot signs of stress and equip them with the tools to help manage it, we delivered a four-part series of our On Course workshops on mental health and stress awareness, sickness absence and musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) conditions. In addition to this, we also delivered five employee-focused ‘U-First’ workshops in 2021 which are designed to provide employees with a deeper understanding of techniques to improve their wellbeing at work and at home.

Sickness management

Intervention during sickness absence

While reviewing their sickness absence processes, BBI incorporated early intervention and return-to-work services from our in-house Rehabilitation and Wellbeing team. With expertise ranging from occupational therapy, occupational psychology, physiotherapy and nursing, this team provides tailored case management to employees struggling with ill health at work or experiencing sickness absence — and their line managers.

The business benefits

Here’s how BBI benefited by implementing their wellbeing objectives, including rolling out their mental health and wellbeing policy and successfully actioning the mental health core standards outlined in the government’s Thriving at Work report. 

BBI said of their experience:

“During the last 12 months, our Rehabilitation and Wellbeing Consultant, Karen Curtis, and the wider Unum team provided fantastic, detailed and comprehensive support as we rolled out our Wellbeing Programme.

It included information on the wide range of resources we have available as a Unum customer, support with making the Mental Health at Work Commitment and delivering employee and manager training that left attendees feeling empowered.

I’d recommend that employers with services through Unum engage with the Rehabilitation team as much as possible — they are so knowledgeable in the topics they discuss and use a delivery style that’s informative, friendly and well-rounded. Overall, Unum provides great support for both employers and employees.”

For more about anything mentioned or to discover how Unum can support your business, visit our employer webpage or email us.

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¹ These services are value-added benefits which connects the employees of Unum customers to third party specialists who can help manage their health and wellbeing, and that of their family. Access to the service is facilitated by Unum at no cost to the Unum customer. Unum is not the provider of the service, but can withdraw or change the service at any time. The service is entirely separate from any insurance policy provided by Unum and is subject to the terms and conditions of the relevant third party specialists. There is no additional cost or increase in premium as a result of Unum making this benefit available.

² Employees and their partner (if applicable) can access all Help@hand services. Children are eligible to access the remote GP and medical second opinion services up until their 18th birthday (24th birthday if in full-time education). Children over 18 can access the Life, money and wellbeing confidential helpline and other online resources. If an individual requires medication, a referral letter or a private fit note, they will need to pay for these. They will also need to pay a delivery charge if they opt to have the medication sent to them. The remote GP will go through the options and next steps during the consultation.

* Direct access via the app to physiotherapists who will provide personalised treatment. 8 consultations per year shared between the employee and their partner. The treatment will usually include digitally delivered exercises with ongoing support via video consultation. If during the video consultation assessment, the physio identifies that in person treatment would be the most appropriate route then this will be offered.

** Available either in person or via video consultation with leading UK-based private consultants, following a final diagnosis. Employees, their partner and children have access to 2 consultations per year between them.

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