PMI Health Group Award for Managing Health at Work

Award profile: This award recognises organisations that have adopted a proactive approach to improving the health of employees. Entries could be about a one-off project or a wide-ranging policy change linked to strategy. The judge will look for a clear explanation of what action has been taken, who was involved, how and why. Evidence of positive outcomes for the organisation must be supplied, such as reductions in absenteeism, improved morale or changes in workplace culture. An explanation of the level of investment required was anticipated.

Somerset County Council

The team – County HR Service
No. in team: 10
No. in HR function: 52
No. of employees HR is responsible for: 17,000

About the organisation

Somerset County Council administers a large range of services to half a million people, from health and education to transport, policing and public safety.

The challenge

The council was facing growing stress-related absence. Added to this was a lack of understanding about the nature of pressure and stress in the workforce.

What the organisation did

  • Circulated a confidential Quality of Working Life survey to all 14,000 council staff
  • Reshaped the provision of occupational health (OH) using a nurse-led service which interacts directly with service managers to ensure OH service has a greater understanding of operational demands
  • Refocused the provision of counselling services
  • Created a joint working group that includes senior managers, HR, health and safety and unions.

Benefits and achievements

  • Sickness absence reduced from 10.75 days per employee in 2002 to 8.29 days in 2004
  • Gross savings over two years of approximately £2m
  • Net saving in excess of £1m
  • Staff survey in April this year showed 75% thought they had a good work-life balance compared to the 63% national benchmark figure for local government.

Category judge Bashyr Aziz says: “This submission is impressive for its qualitative and quantitative detail. Claims about savings are supported by data and it is clear that the design and management of its health at work programme is a collaborative enterprise including management, trade unions and staff at all levels.”

Highlands and Islands Enterprise

The team – Organisational Development team, HR Group
No. in team: 4
No. in HR function: 12
No. of employees HR is responsible for: 578

About the organisation

Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is a non-departmental body responsible for economic and community development across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland with the aim of creating a strong, diverse and sustainable economy. Staff are spread across 34 locations throughout the Highlands and Islands.

The challenge

HIE has been through a period of considerable change, which involved streamlining its structure and services to become more customer focused. This has put pressure on staff to work harder and smarter

The organisational team found it needed to create a new work environment that not only supports staff in managing pressure at work, but also promotes work-life balance and healthy living and working practices.

What the organisation did

  • Developed and implemented workshops on managing pressure, designed to focus on the real and sustainable differences in behaviour to promote staff health
  • All staff have access to a 24-hour telephone helpline and short-term face-to-face counselling
  • Created a manager’s toolkit, introducing them to the occupational health service.

Benefits and achievements

  • 60% of staff are now satisfied with their ability to balance work and home life
  • 77% of staff said they would use the new services if they had a specific problem
  • 70% of staff are satisfied with their jobs (compared to 58% across Scotland)
  • 75% made changes to habits following workshops and are maintaining these at both team and personal level.

Category judge Bashyr Aziz says: “To be able to get the support and participation of managers and workers across 34 areas was a feat in itself. The programme was simple and pragmatic and yet it showed evidence of innovative thinking. Interesting packages of information were produced for the participants and the programme was closely monitored.”


The team – Employee Health Management (EHM)
No. in team: 67
No. in HR function: 527
No. of employees HR is responsible for: 20,000

About the organisation

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a world-leading research-based pharmaceutical company. Its mission is to improve the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.

The challenge

The company needed to re-evaluate its employee well-being programme following the merger of Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham in 2001. Occupational health had become heavily compliance-led and was about caring for employees as a result of illness instead of proactive on health issues. GSK needed to understand the root causes of mental and physical ill-health.

What the company did

  • Interviewed all senior managers to understand their business needs in relation to health
  • Using senior management feedback, EHM built the business case for running a resilience and health programme
  • Created a resilience programme to run across the whole organisation, aiming to reach all teams in five years
  • Resilience of individuals to be tested; the effects and outcomes of sources of pressure to be identified and action agreed.

Benefits and achievements

  • Work-related mental ill-health down by 60% between 2002 and 2004
  • 25% drop in reported pressure due to work-life conflicts
  • 21% increase in reported satisfaction with the company
  • 14% increase in willingness among staff to experiment with new work practices.

Category judge Bashyr Aziz says: “It cannot be easy for such a huge organisation, formed from the merger of disparate organisations with different management styles, to put in place an effective programme for the management of health at work. GSK has worked with researchers and the Health & Safety Executive to develop an innovative programme that has the full support of its staff – with tangible results.

Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education

The team – Health and Wellbeing Team
No. in team: 5
No. in HR function: 12
No. of employees HR is responsible for: 1,250

About the organisation

Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education is a large and successful provider of education and training. It is a major employer in North East Lincolnshire.

The challenge

Sickness absence at the institute had exceeded 10,000 working days and cost £450,000 per year. There was a need for a clear focus on the issue and training for managers in handling sickness absence more promptly and robustly.

What the organisation did

  • Created a ‘work community’ that supports staff, enabling them in turn to better support their students
  • Created an occupational health team to audit the working environment, practices and risks of all working areas and take appropriate action where necessary
  • Carried out extensive health and safety training and regular inspections
  • Trained more than 200 staff as first aiders.

Benefits and achievements

  • Level of sickness dropped to 4.5 working days lost per employee
  • In 2004, 375 retail vouchers were given to staff with no sickness absence (compared with 267 in 2003)
  • 86% of employees now say they would recommend the institute as a place to work
  • 85% of staff anticipate still working at the institute in two years’ time.

Category judge Bashyr Aziz says: “Having decided that the level of sickness absence needed to be reduced, the organisation took a holistic approach, which included staff from many areas and a number of different strategies. This was obviously a long-term project, with effectiveness measured regularly, and positive results becoming evident both in the short and the long term.”

PMI Health Group is one of the UK’s leading employee healthcare solutions providers. With more than 20 years’ experience in health risk management, its team offers advice and support in all areas of business health to help reduce costs through absence management, legislative compliance, health cover, employee benefits, claims management and occupational health.

Category judge: Bashyr Aziz, senior lecturer, University of Wolverhampton Became interested in work and health while in the Army. Subsequent occupational health posts include a North African oil refinery and a West Midlands hospital. Began teaching in 1998. In addition to the shortlisted
teams below, he highly commended the entries of Siemens and FirstAssist.

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