Fairness in the workplace

This work supports the following UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • Good Health and Wellbeing
  • Partnership For The Goals
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  4. Improving employee health, nutrition & well-being

Improving employee health, nutrition & well-being

We protect and promote the health, nutrition and well-being of our employees so that they can enjoy fit and healthy lives at work and at home.

Life at Unilever

Helping employees be the best they can be


Leena Nair

Leena Nair, our Chief HR Officer.

“In a fast-changing world, employee health and well-being are critical for the personal growth and development of the individual, as a well as our organisation’s growth.

We’re committed to addressing health and well-being as an important business driver on a sustainable basis and our health and well-being programmes are linked to our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.”

We aim to support our employees to be the best they can be. This includes giving them tools to promote, maintain and enhance their health so they can maximise their fitness. At the same time, we want to improve their capacity to work safely and effectively.

Our Medical & Occupational Health Strategy

Our global strategy for Medical and Occupational Health (M&OH) has two core elements:

  • health promotion – to promote, maintain and enhance the health of our employees, maximising their wellness and enabling them to work safely and effectively. Examples include our focus on physical and mental well-being in the workplace, and tackling HIV/AIDs in Africa
  • health protection – to protect our employees from work-related hazards to their health, in our manufacturing facilities, in all our workplaces, or while travelling.

We bring our strategy to life through targeted health promotions and health protection programmes, including our flagship Lamplighter programme, and activities linked with our global Well-being Framework.

Unilever has a long history of actively supporting well-being. We began Lamplighter health checks more than 10 years ago, and we expanded our mental health programme globally in 2013. We've made significant progress – well-being is firmly on the organisational agenda, with a global Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and a series of locally-delivered programmes and services tailored to their context. One of our critical success factors has been strong local leadership from our country managers, supported by our HR and M&OH teams.

We take a holistic view of well-being

How we define well-being

We define holistic well-being as a sustainable state of feeling good and functioning well, as a ‘whole human’. Well-being unleashes the energy in our people to drive sustainable performance.

In 2014, we created a four-pillar well-being framework to address the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of our employees, as well as their sense of purpose.

Unilever well-being frame work

Our well-being strategy aims to create a working environment that is supportive of employees’ personal lives, while meeting our business needs. One of the ways we do this is through ‘agile working’. This means providing our colleagues with safe, adaptable working practices and technology, allowing them to perform their job anywhere, at any time, as long as the needs of the business are met. We offer more formal flexible working arrangements, too, such as job-sharing and flexible or reduced hours. Read more on agile working in Reducing office impacts.

Our Well-being Framework guides us in tackling the health risks we’ve identified across our business. The top three of these are:

  • mental health
  • lifestyle factors (for example, exercise, nutrition, smoking and obesity), and
  • ergonomic factors (for example, physical health issues such as repetitive strain injury).

Our programmes for addressing occupational ill health

We have a range of programmes aimed at protecting and supporting workers in our operations including in the areas of:

  • the prevention of work-related illness and occupational diseases
  • ergonomics in the workplace
  • environmental health
  • protection from noise
  • enzyme-related surveillance, and
  • the delivery of occupational health for factory workers through our World Class Manufacturing programme.

Our strategy also includes planning to respond to pandemics, when taking care of our employees’ health becomes even more crucial for protecting individuals and business continuity alike.

The potential of purpose

We believe that people perform better and unlock their full potential when they can live and work with 'purpose’. Defining a personal purpose helps employees see meaning in their work and home life and contributes to greater resilience and well-being, enabling them to perform at their best. We also see purpose as a driver of an ‘owner’s mindset’. That means employees work with an entrepreneurial spirit and feel a strong sense of ownership of Unilever’s success. And we’ve found it builds empowerment and collaboration within and between teams too.

According to research among consumer companies by executive search consultancy Korn Ferry:

Purpose-driven companies with humanistic values outperformed the S&P 500 by 14 times over 15 years. People with a positive, energizing purpose tend to be focused, optimistic, and successful. Great purposes inspire both people and organisations to do great things.

People on a Mission Report, Korn Ferry, December 2016

In 2017 we developed our People with Purpose initiative and workshop to bring this potential to life.


'Discover your purpose' is driving transformation


Tim Munden

Tim Munden, our Chief Learning Officer.

“We know that to build an organisation that creates sustainable value, we need people with sustainable energy, engagement and resilience.

Our own research shows us that people who say they live their purpose at Unilever are more likely to say they have a job that inspires them to go the extra mile. Since we launched our Discover your Purpose workshops in 2017, 25,000 people have taken part. When asked, those people report being more engaged and more positive about their well-being and development at Unilever. As one colleague put it: ‘I love the company, the culture, what it stands for. I work on a purpose project and that makes me very happy and willing to go an extra mile as I believe what I do matters.’

We need all the energy and resilience we can to create transformational change through our business. Helping our people discover their purpose is key to achieving this and we’re aiming to reach another 25,000 people through Purpose workshops in 2019.”

Well-being for new parents

Ensuring that new parents receive proper support is an important part of improving employee well-being. It also contributes to our ambition to be a diverse and inclusive business, alongside our commitments to disability inclusion, respect for workers’ rights, and ensuring Fairness in the workplace.

In 2017, we introduced our Global Maternal Well-being Standard, which among a range of principles makes sure new mothers receive at least 16 weeks’ paid maternity leave.

In 2018 we introduced our new Global Paternity Leave Standard, enabling new fathers to take three weeks' paternity leave. We’re aiming to roll the Global Paternity Leave Standard out to all countries by the end of 2019. Our standards are complemented by options such as agile working, job-sharing, and flexible or reduced hours.

Our new Paternity Leave Standard

Our intention is that eligible employees will be entitled to a minimum standard of paid paternity leave on the following basis (inclusive of any statutory entitlement):

  • at least three weeks’ paid paternity leave within the first year of the child’s birth / adoption
  • scope to take all three weeks paid paternity leave at once, or in separate week-long increments
  • scope to extend paternity leave on an unpaid basis.

More details of the Standards and our Maternity and Paternity Support (MAPS) programme are in Advancing diversity and inclusion. Read more on agile working in Reducing office impacts.

Evaluating the impact of our health & well-being initiatives

Lamplighter is our worldwide programme for improving employee health. In 2018, it covered 84 countries, reaching around 65,000 employees (see Targets & performance).

Programmes such as this have important short- and long-term health and business benefits. In the short term, we expect to see healthier, more motivated and more productive employees, with lower levels of sick leave.

We see the long-term benefits as achieving a sustainable workforce with long-lasting good health, happiness and purpose. And for our business, we see lower healthcare costs, which in turn also contribute to reducing the burden on public healthcare.

We evaluate the impact of our programmes by measuring health risk factors at country level over a three-to-five-year period. This gives us feedback on what needs to improve and how we can provide bespoke interventions. We also measure the frequency of work-related illness per million hours worked.

We’ve developed an interactive self-audit tool for our country teams to assess and monitor health data. It helps them make the right decisions for their business, in alignment with our global Well-being Framework. The ability to detect and refer high risk results and educate employees to improve their lifestyle has led to a reduction in key health risk factors. For example, among employees in South East Asia, we’ve seen reductions in blood pressure and cholesterol since 2015. The assessments also feed into our annual Global Health and Well-being Awards.

Good health is good business

Euros money
1:2.44

Return on investment in our Lamplighter programmes

We’ve commissioned multi-year studies to evaluate the return on investment (ROI) of our health programmes. These analyses examined risk prevalence data across ten lifestyle-related risk factors over a decade (2008−2017). We also looked at data around programme participation, programme investments, and median annual compensation. This data helps us determine the productivity savings associated with changes in risk prevalence.

Our aggregated results show that for every €1 we spend on Lamplighter programmes, we see a return of €2.44 – indicating that good health really is good for business.

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