Personnel Today Awards 2009: Award For Health at Work

THE AWARD

This award recognises organisations that can demonstrate how specific health, fitness or wellbeing initiatives are making their employees healthier, happier and more productive. The judges were looking for evidence of employers’ commitment to staff welfare, and the benefits enjoyed by both the employees and the organisation.

THE JUDGES

Louise Aston
Campaign director
Business Action on Health

 

 

 

Alex Gourlay
Chief executive, health and beauty division
Alliance Boots

 

 

Asda

The team: Policy and colleague relations
Number in team: 8
Number of staff the team is responsible for: 170,000

About the organisation

Asda is the second largest supermarket chain in the UK. It became a subsidiary of the American retail giant Wal-Mart in 1999, and employs 170,000 staff.

The challenge

Asda already recognised the benefits of a healthy workforce, providing numerous opportunities for employees and their families to get involved in health and wellbeing, but wanted to take its commitment to staff wellbeing to another level.

What the organisation did

Launched Year of Colleague Health in 2008-09, which involved the roll-out of a comprehensive occupational health scheme. The initiative – which involved the HR, healthcare, corporate responsibility and catering teams, as well as feedback from staff representatives – included:

  • Free health check-ups
  • Subsidised eye care and healthcare products
  • Free weight management advice at all its pharmacies
  • New healthy eating programme in staff canteens
  • The ‘A-plan’ guide to healthy eating and living
  • Access to an occupational health nurse
  • Materials and sessions to give up smoking.

Benefits and achievements

  • Staff turnover rates have fallen by 6% to 20%
  • Absence rates have fallen by 0.6% to 3.1%
  • This has saved an estimated £2.5m.

Judge’s comments

Louise Aston says: “Asda is to be commended on its inclusive approach to its employee health and wellbeing agenda, driven by strong leadership from its board of directors.”

 

Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency

The team: Health, wellbeing and attendance
Number in team: 4
Number of staff the team is responsible for: 7,000

About the organisation

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is an executive agency of the Department for Transport, and is responsible for maintaining a database of drivers and vehicles in Great Britain. It has 7,000 staff.

The challenge

In 2005, sickness absence at the DVLA averaged 14 days per employee, costing the taxpayer about £10.3m. A proactive approach was needed to achieve the National Audit Office target of 7.5 days’ sick leave per employee by 2010 and gain a better understanding of the health issues affecting employees.

What the organisation did

  • Gained support from senior management to implement a health and wellbeing strategy
  • Carried out a Quality of Working Life survey and developed an action plan
  • Developed a health promotion calendar
  • Implemented proactive occupational health and wellbeing services
  • Introduced an employee assistance programme
  • Opened a fitness centre.

Benefits and achievements

  • 70% of staff had not suffered any stress at work in the past year
  • 71% of managers said they felt confident handling stress-related issues
  • Physiotherapy made a £56,000 return on investment in six months
  • Absence fell by 33.7% from 85,311 days in 2007-08 to 56,554 in 2008-09, saving £2.6m.

Judge’s comments

Alex Gourlay says: “This was a holistic individual and organisational approach to the high absence rate challenge. Results are very impressive as are future plans.”

 

Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education

The team: Health and wellbeing team
Number in team: 5

About the organisation

Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education offers further and higher education, business training, community education and commercial activities. It employs 1,350 staff.

The challenge

In 2001, sickness absence levels at the institute were high. Staffing procedures did not support managers, and health and wellbeing was not promoted. There was no co-ordination of the health and wellbeing strategy and initiatives between HR, managers, health and safety, and occupational health, and the return on investment from such schemes was not measured.

What the organisation did

The team’s strategy to address these issues included:

  • Rewriting staff procedures
  • Training managers annually on absence management
  • Creating a multi-disciplinary health and wellbeing team
  • Promoting health and wellbeing at work
  • Managers developing ‘return to work’ plans with absentees
  • Annual ‘thank-you’ letters and vouchers for staff with no sickness absence
  • Establishing a Health and Wellbeing Academy.

Benefits and achievements

  • Sickness absence has fallen from 3.6% in 2001 to 1.18% in 2007-08
  • This equates to £620,000 a year
  • The institute won five national awards in 2008 for its work, including the National Business Award.

Judge’s comments

Alex Gourlay says: “I liked the progress made over time and the holistic approach. Support by building into policy and procedures is impressive, and measurement was good over time.”

 

London Fire Brigade

The team: HR
Number in team: 5
Number of staff the team is responsible for: 97

About the organisation

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) is the UK’s largest fire and rescue service. It employs 7,113 staff.

The challenge

The 2003 pay dispute left the LFB facing a demoralised workforce. Average absence levels stood at 12.45 shifts per person, costing more than £18m a year, and sickness, anxiety and depression were major factors. It needed to reduce absence rates and improve the health of its workforce to deliver its service to London.

What the organisation did

  • Trained managers to increase their absence management skills
  • Conducted a full staff stress audit to identify ‘hotspots’
  • Established a Stress Steering Group, which launched a range of initiatives, including: the ‘LFB Healthy’ brand, a health and wellbeing pilot, stress management training for managers, alcohol awareness briefings, and health roadshow programme.

Benefits and achievements

  • Sickness levels for operational staff has fallen by 44% to 6.97 shifts since 2002-03, saving approximately £8m
  • Sickness caused by sadness, anxiety and depression has fallen by 59%, the equivalent of £1.8m.

Judge’s comments

Alex Gourlay says: “The programme was tailored for the needs of the workforce and was also used to rebuild relationships. Strong results for the health and wellbeing pilot should encourage ongoing support in London and will hopefully be adapted across other brigades.”

 

Metropolitan Police Service

The team: Occupational health
Number in team: 7
Number of the team is staff responsible for: 55,000

About the organisation

The Met serves 7.2 million people in Greater London. It employs 31,000 officers, 14,000 police staff, 414 traffic wardens and 4,000 Police Community Support Officers.

The challenge

The Met was losing 250,000 days a year to stress-related absence at an estimated cost of £40m a year, with about 1,086 officers off work every day as a result. It wanted to equip its staff with the skills needed to manage stress in their lives and at work.

What the organisation did

  • OH department devised a training DVD entitled Shrinking Clouds. It provides the tools and techniques they need to deal with stress, demonstrating skills such as relaxation techniques and breathing exercises, as well as education on exercise, lifestyle and nutrition
  • The interactive presentation was backed up with supplementary information and a wallet-sized summary card.

Benefits and achievements

  • Stress-related absence has fallen by 14.3%
  • This represents a cost saving of £1.3m to the organisation and the taxpayer
  • Police officer absence rate has fallen from 10.2 days per year in 2003 to 7.1 days per year in January 2009.

Judge’s comments

Louise Aston says: “The Met case study is an exemplary model of how an organisation has taken a proactive approach to tackling stress and building emotional resilience.”

 

Royal Mail Group

The team: Health and wellbeing team, corporate responsibility
Number in team: 14
Number of staff the team is responsible for: 170,000

About the organisation

Royal Mail Group is the parent company of Royal Mail, Post Office and Parcelforce Worldwide. It employs 170,000 staff.

The challenge

Absence was becoming a problem, running at a rate of just below 5% at a cost of £200m a year. Working practices were changing, shifts were becoming longer, and staff were retiring later. There was a need to invest further in health and wellbeing programmes as the work profile changed to keep staff fit and well and reduce sickness absence.

What the organisation did

  • Invested £1.4m per year to support staff with musculoskeletal and stress conditions
  • Interventions included day-one referral to occupational health and physiotherapy and functional restoration programmes
  • Set up a stress rehabilitation programme at the London site, using cognitive behavioural therapy as part of a stress management model.

Benefits and achievements

  • 86% of staff sent to physiotherapy return to work on full productive duties
  • Functional restoration programme shows a 71% reduction in absence and a 3:1 return on investment
  • Reduced musculoskeletal and stress-related absence saved £6.5m in 2008-09.

Judge’s comments

Louise Aston says: “The Royal Mail Group case study is impressive because the compelling business case for investing in employee health and wellbeing is comprehensive and a measurable impact can be demonstrated.”

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