What Can We Learn From Unum’s Wellness Action Plan?

Written by Astriid Volunteer Sabeeha Kassam

Long-term health conditions can be defined as ‘a condition or symptoms that can only be managed long-term with therapies or medication’. There are lots of ways talent with a long-term health condition can be supported in the workplace.  This will enable them to thrive, not survive, both personally and professionally. Here’s all you need to know about how leading employment benefits advisor Unum supports its talent in the workplace with wellness action plans.

What proportion of the population lives with a long-term health condition?

In 2015, the last time the government published significant data on the topic of long-term health conditions, the figure stood at 24% (15 million people). The top three most prevalent conditions were hypertension (high blood pressure), depression, and asthma.

What proportion of talent in the workplace has a long-term health condition?

‘Economically active’ is the number of disabled people who are able to work with their condition. There are around 9.5 million disabled people in the UK of working age (between 16-64 years). So, this figure of economically active stands at just under 5.5 million (17% of the total number of economically active people in the UK- including employed and job-seeking). That is a significant proportion of the workforce, and it’s therefore vital that employers know best how to support their talent physically, emotionally, and cognitively. And how to address their specific needs to retain them.

But what is a wellness action plan?

This plan can be used to help anyone managing a long-term health condition or in the event where a recurrence of a symptom is likely.

It can be thought of as a tool to encourage an open dialogue, help support talent in the workplace and address any access requirements -because everyone should have the equal right to thrive professionally. It is encouraged that the plan is filled in and updated at regular intervals. It includes:

  • The wellness continuum- encouraging an open dialogue for talent to explain what a flare-up looks like for them and how their symptoms are when they are at their best.

  • Access requirements- how to support talent in the workplace.

  • Condition-related leave- absences related to recovery, condition-related appointments, or treatment.

  • Return to work support- how employers can help manage this

  • Discussion points- having regular check-ins to ensure the plan works for both parties.

This plan is used alongside their absence management support plan which includes preventative measures (for those struggling to stay well while in work, or for those absent to provide assistance to return to work where possible).

What are the benefits?

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence found that long-term sickness (>4 weeks) is detrimental not only financially for an individual but also negatively impacts their physical and mental wellbeing and contributes to social isolation. Disabled people are twice as likely to be out of work, and there are 2.6 million disabled people between 16-64 years of age economically inactive due to a long-term health condition lasting at least 12 months.

The use of this plan could help disabled people who want to stay in the workplace to flourish and minimise, hopefully, the risk of flare-ups or becoming too ill to continue working. This plan could also help empower disabled people or those with long-term health conditions to feel they can be open with their condition so they can seek the support that they so rightly deserve.

Written by Astriid Volunteer Sabeeha Kassam