Getting Started

Keeping staff happy

High rates of absenteeism among British workers mean that companies need to promote staff wellbeing. Insurance company Unum explains how employee assistance programmes can help

Keeping staff happy

According to a study carried out by Expert HR, the British economy loses on average £16bn a year because of sickness absence*. The survey found businesses lost 6.5 working days a year for each employee, while a report quoted in City A.M. revealed that most of us have lost 1.5 weeks’ work a year* as a result of sleep deprivation.

It’s clear that firms need to be proactive to keep their staff happy and healthy, so it’s little surprise that employee wellbeing is moving up the business agenda. Embedding a wellbeing strategy can boost productivity and help to retain skilled people who prefer to stay with a company that cares and where they feel well supported.

But developing your own strategy can be difficult and distract you from the key task of running your business. Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), which sometimes come built-in to insurance policies, can do most of the hard work for you.

Springing into action

Common problems such as debt, stress and relationship difficulty can snowball and become major issues. A good EAP will help your people cope by giving them information and practical support on everyday issues like work, family, relationships, money and health.

It also usually provides quick access to emotional and practical support, including face-to-face counselling, to help an employee who may be having problems following a bereavement or an accident at work, for example. This can help them get back on their feet – and reduce the impact on your business.

It can be difficult to leave problems at the doorstep, especially personal events that have a big impact. Having a baby, losing a loved one or being diagnosed with a serious health condition can affect people in different ways, but if your support network is ready to spring into action, it can lead to a better outcome for your employee and you.

Training and support

A good EAP will go beyond providing emotional and practical support, and offer valuable help to your management team. This should include legal advice, typically on meeting your legal obligations around health and safety, taxation and employment law. In addition, support tools can include advice on day-to-day management issues, such as how to manage a difficult conversation with an employee about discipline, productivity or performance.

Insurance providers frequently offer services over and above financial protection, including training on a wide range of subjects related to work, life and health. They may also provide workshops and seminars on everything from leadership skills and managing change to softer subjects like mindfulness and exercise.

Support is usually available 24/7 through smartphone, tablet or desktop via a simple click or app – as well as confidential helplines.


Unum Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Registered in England 983768.

In the UK, Unum has a financial strength rating of A- (Strong) from Standard & Poor’s with a stable outlook.

At the end of 2015, Unum protected over 1.4 million people in the UK and paid claims of £294m – representing in excess of £5.5m a week in benefits to our customers – providing security and peace of mind to individuals and their families.

* Source: Absence rates and costs: Expert HR survey 2015

* Source: City A.M., 22 December 2015