Helena Pozniak
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Creating The Blueprint: for a company that cares

The Telegraph
All companies can benefit from being responsible employers and Unum is leading the charge to help produce The Blueprint – a practical tool for companies that care

Is a company responsible for the happiness of its staff? How far should an employer go in ensuring work is a place in which employees feel secure? How much do workers now expect from their firms?

There’s a rock-solid business case for ensuring staff feel valued by those who pay their wages. Employees give more back, they’re more productive and crucially they’re less likely to leave – as the economy picks up and the workforce grows older, this becomes ever more important.

But beyond the bottom line, a company that cares can ensure the more vulnerable members of staff don’t fall by the wayside, financially or emotionally, as a result of ill health or injury.

“In the current climate there's a real need for UK businesses to differentiate themselves from the competition. Holding on to your best employees can be tough but it can ensure a company stays ahead. At Unum, we believe one way to hold on to talent is to show you're a company that values and cares for your staff,” says Peter O’Donnell, CEO of Unum.

Unum is drawing on research undertaken with leading academic and industry partners to unpick the link between workplace health and happiness and staff retention – and using this to help to produce The Blueprint for a company that cares.

The Blueprint will demonstrate practical steps that help companies become responsible and welcoming employers, and allow them to engage and hang on to their workforce.

Initiatives such as Income Protection and occupational health can form part of a good wellbeing strategy – some 62 per cent of employers say that employee benefit packages have become more important in recruiting staff, according to research Unum commissioned through People Management.

More than simply “something nice to have”, long-term employee benefits fill a gap. Often the income employees earn is unprotected, so by providing for employees when they are at their most vulnerable, employers can give them peace of mind that their rent or mortgage, childcare and other essentials are covered.

Pay freezes during the recession have served to sharpen employees’ focus and go on to demand more from their employers. Some 77 per cent have said, according to research by Populus, that they feel less financially secure because of the downturn. Equally, as the economy perks up and more job opportunities arise, companies will need to show they can do more than just pay wages to attract and retain good employees.

Demographic changes mean UK workers have different needs now and benefit packages haven’t kept pace with change, research by Cass Business School, commissioned by Unum shows. There are now 13 per cent more women at work than during the 1980s and 46 per cent more older workers – sobering statistics as older workers and carers, often women, are more at risk of falling into financial difficulties.

These figures become more acute when seen through the viewpoint of smaller and medium-sized companies – which the government hopes will be instrumental in driving the UK back to economic health.

Many of the UK’s most innovative smaller companies lack the resources for a HR department, so responsibility for handling employee wellbeing falls upon the busiest managers, meaning this issue is at risk of falling by the wayside. If key members of staff fall ill, long-term sickness could cost tens of thousands of pounds, Unum estimates.

“We want to produce a practical guide for employers created by industry experts to help companies care for their staff. The Blueprint does exactly that. It is a toolkit that equips employers with the necessary means to keep their best people and ultimately thrive,” says O’Donnell.

All companies can benefit from being responsible and welcoming employers – and The Blueprint for a company that cares aims to show why, and crucially, how, it can be done.

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