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. BBI has served the global diagnostics industry for more than 50 years and is the world’s largest independent producer of immuno-diagnostic reagents. 

Their expertise also helps deliver solutions that bring critical components together in the design, development and manufacture of point of care or diagnostic tests.

In the UK, BBI employs more than 400 employees and offers a range of employee benefits, including a Unum GIP policy.

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 to understand the best way to use our range of health and wellbeing support, guidance and expertise. This included:

Man using Help@hand wellbeing app from Unum


We recommended BBI register for Help@hand,1 the health and wellbeing app from Unum. Every employer with a Group Risk policy can offer access to Help@hand to insured employees, with the app offering insured employees — as well as their families2 access to a range of health and wellbeing support.

These services include:

  • Unlimited 24/7 remote GP appointments
  • Unlimited mental health support from a qualified mental healthcare practitioner
  • Remote physiotherapy
  • Second medical opinions
  • Access to BenefitHub,3 a provider of savings and discounts to offer employees money off their everyday shopping
  • A built-in employee assistance programme (EAP), which includes a helpline for 24/7 wellbeing support as well as guidance on financial and legal matters.
Learn more
Two ladies training

‘On Course': Line manager and employee training

Unum’s ‘On Course’ workshops are CPD-accredited  and equip line managers to spot employee ill health at work and offer tools to manage it. Sessions include:

  • Mental health and stress awareness
  • Sickness absence
  • Musculoskeletal conditions. 

Meanwhile, employees can access our U-first workshops, designed to give a deeper understanding of techniques to improve their wellbeing.

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. 

“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

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1 Help@hand is provided to Unum Group customers by Square Health. It offers access to services designed to manage the health and wellbeing of employees and their families. Help@hand is entirely separate from any Unum insurance policy. Help@hand is not part of the insurance contract, is provided by Unum for no additional cost to its customers, and Unum can withdraw or change the service in the future. Help@hand is available to UK residents only. 

Square Health Limited, registered in England and Wales company number 07054181. Crown House, William Street, Windsor SL4 1AT. 

2 Eligible family members include partner and children up to 18, or up to 24 if in full-time education. Eligibility may vary on services. 

3 For mild to moderate issues. Number of sessions subject to clinical appropriateness. Should the service be no longer suitable, users will be directed to alternative appropriate support. 

4 BenefitHub Limited is registered in England and Wales under company number 11109677. Registered office 2nd Floor Regis House, 45 King William Street, London, United Kingdom EC4R 9AN.

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