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Employee health and wellbeing

Average read time: 7 minutes

Our mission for employee health and wellbeing is to add healthy years to the lives of our people, unlocking untapped human potential for our business and our world.

At the heart of our business

We enable our employees to be the best version of themselves by empowering them to enjoy a healthy, safe and high-quality work-life balance.

We know that when people are healthy and well, and living their life’s ‘purpose’, they are able to contribute more – whether that’s to their families, their work or society at large.

We promote a positive environment in our workplaces, to support people’s physical, mental, social and emotional wellbeing, as well as to help them fulfil their individual purpose. By empowering our employees to be the best version of themselves, we help them, and our business, to thrive.

Our Wellbeing Framework is at the heart of our business, underpinning everything we do to support our employees’ health and wellbeing.

Purposeful careers

It makes sense that if we want to build a purposeful business with purposeful brands, we need to encourage our people to bring their purpose into their work lives. We developed the ‘Discover your Purpose’ workshop to give people the opportunity to identify their personal purpose, and put it at the heart of their development and career.

We’ve seen that people who bring their personal purpose into their working environment also feel engaged and positive about their wellbeing and their development at Unilever. And so far, we’ve helped more than 57,000 of our people to discover their individual purpose.

At Unilever, we acknowledge and respect the deep, mutually reinforcing connections between work and health, and seek to bring an integrative approach to improving the wellbeing of our people. We work hard to ensure our people are able to align individual purpose to the work they do.

Dr Diana Han – Chief Health & Wellbeing Officer

Breaking the stigma around mental health

Alongside purpose, mental health is critical to our employee’s health and wellbeing. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 10% of the world’s population is affected by mental health issues and 15% working-age adults live with a mental disorder. And nearly two-thirds of people who need treatment never seek help from a health professional due to stigma and discrimination. Depression and anxiety are estimated to cause US $1 trillion in lost productivity globally every year.

Creating a supportive workplace

To help us create a workplace that supports mental health, our approach focuses on:

  • Culture

    Empowering our people through education and raising awareness of mental health, addressing stigma and making mental health conversations commonplace, on a par with physical health

  • Leadership

    Building awareness and capability on mental health support, while encouraging role modelling

  • Prevention

    Providing access to self-help tools for individuals and teams, including information from experts and lifelong learning

  • Support

    Enabling a strong foundation of anytime, anywhere access to expert mental health support and the ability to have mental health conversations with peers.

Equipping teams to better support their health and wellbeing

Our approach involves providing comprehensive support and resources through the Team Energy Assessment, which allows teams to evaluate their energy levels across physical, emotional, mental, and purposeful dimensions of wellbeing. Since the tool's launch in early 2021, almost 22,000 Unilever employees have participated in the assessment, facilitating improved team discussions on mutual support.

The Team Energy Assessment incorporates the measurement of psychological safety, identified as a crucial factor for high-performing teams. Recognising its significance in fostering employee and team wellbeing, we have developed training materials for both managers and employees to enhance understanding. In 2023, over 2,000 line managers and nearly 1,000 employees underwent training on psychological safety, with more than 7,000 Team Energy assessments recorded.

Future needs for future generations

To make a real difference on mental health, our focus needs to shift from reactive to preventative measures and rethinking how we work as an employer.

To understand what wellbeing needs will look like in the future, we also have to look at how society and the workplace will develop over the coming decades. An ageing population – and workforce – in some markets will mean people will need to learn new skills and relearn others, as well as work in hyperconnected, highly diverse and transient teams.

We are diligently fostering a culture of learning aimed at enhancing employees' mental health, assisting individuals in upgrading their skills for the future of work. For more details on our approach, see Future of Work.

Advancing workplace mental health

Unilever is one of the founding partners of the Global Business Collaboration (GBC) for Better Workplace Mental Health, a business-led initiative to advocate for – and accelerate – positive change for mental health in the workplace.

Unilever signed the GBC Leadership Pledge in January 2021, showcasing our commitment to advancing mental health awareness and best practices in the workplace.

At Unilever, our talented, committed people are vital to business success. A psychologically safe environment where employees are empowered to contribute their best is a key enabler of Unilever’s culture. Dialling up our performance edge includes prioritising the physical and mental health of our people, unlocking their full potential to drive innovation, execution and business results.

Hein Schumacher, CEO

Supporting physical and mental health

We want our employees to be fit and healthy, at home as well as at work. Our Global Health and Wellbeing team is crucial to achieving this.

The Global Health and Wellbeing team is a diverse group of experienced and well-trained medical and human resources professionals stationed around the world. Our goal is to establish and maintain a safe and healthy working environment. The team also provides proactive pre-employment checks, annual health examinations, medical fitness evaluations, and access to market-leading medical care when required. For instance, our employees have access to periodic health surveillance programmes designed to protect their health on the job, in addition to general health check-up campaigns ensuring early detection and management of non-communicable diseases.

Breaking the Stigma of Cancer in the Workplace

Our commitment to our colleagues is resolute, offering support through health challenges, particularly cancer, as underscored by our Working with cancer pledge.

We stand strong with our colleagues affected by cancer and are committed to ending stigma in the workplace wherever it might occur. Our Unilever culture begins with humanity - to care, show kindness, and ensure inclusion - and we are working to create equity for everyone, including those who experience the scourge of cancer during their working lives.

Dr Diana Han – Chief Health & Wellbeing Officer

Protecting employees’ health

84%of office employee survey respondents agreed Unilever cares about their wellbeing

Our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) delivers support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and is accessible via phone, text or web chat. The programme provides services such as counselling, mindfulness-based stress reduction courses, life coaching, financial wellbeing and resilience training.

In 2023, 84% of office employee survey respondents agreed Unilever cares about their wellbeing.

Our occupational health services

Occupational health is an area of work in public health to promote and maintain the highest degree of physical, mental, and social wellbeing of workers in all occupations (WHO definition).

At Unilever, occupational health is a vital component of our whole-person health strategy. Our colleagues have access to occupational health services covering all stages of their employment with Unilever from hire to retire. Our occupational health services are based on three core principles:

  1. Quality management: We standardise our practices everywhere. We continue to extend access to occupational health services, embedding the requirements and guidelines in international standards whenever applicable.
  2. Clinical excellence: We base our offering on up-to-date, current, and evidence-based clinical guidelines and best practices.
  3. Compliance: We comply with local legal and regulatory requirements set by international health authorities, as well as global Unilever requirements.

Our occupational health services include ergonomics programmes, occupational health surveillances, occupational health fitness assessments – both at pre-placement and throughout employment to retirement, health screening for early detection of disease, health promotion and education, travel medicine, medical emergency preparedness and response, along with several other programmes aimed at the following:

  1. Protecting our colleagues’ health from potential workplace illnesses and ensuring that they enjoy quality physical, social, mental health, and wellbeing.
  2. Embedding workplace health promotion and education into our whole-person health strategy.
  3. Connecting our colleagues' health to productivity, growth, future of work, and business continuity.
occupational health slide image

Preventing and managing occupational illnesses

As well as taking action to target specific diseases, we monitor occupational illnesses. Our occupational health programmes cover the prevention of work-related illness and occupational diseases, ergonomics, environmental health and protection from noise and enzymes.

We track our progress via the Occupational Illness Frequency Rate (OIFR), which measures the number of work-related ill health cases per million hours worked for all our direct employees (from 1 January to 31 December each year). We do not yet measure this for contractors or our temporary staff. We track OIFR using the criteria laid down by the US Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).

Our Manufacturing and Occupational Health teams work together to make our factories and offices healthy places to work and, since 2017, we have seen a steady decline in our OIFR, which now stands at 0.08 per million hours worked, the lowest level since we started reporting.

Occupational Illness Frequency Rate

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

2021

2022

2023

Direct employees

0.54

0.53

0.60

0.78

0.58

0.58

0.41

0.13

0.10

0.08

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