Our employee health programme

Lamplighter is our global programme for assessing and improving four modifiable risk factors – physical health, exercise, nutrition and mental resilience.


Lamplighter is at the heart of our approach to employee health. It provides structure and guidance to local teams on how to develop strategic initiatives around physical and mental health. This means each of our country businesses can provide support to our employees in the most locally appropriate way.

Of course, employee well-being does not depend on a single programme. It’s fostered by a wide range of factors in our culture and workplaces. Making our culture a gender-balanced, inclusive environment through measures such as maternity and paternity pay, disability inclusion, agile working and fair working conditions generally are all essential, and our work in these areas is described in Advancing diversity and inclusion and Fairness in the workplace.


Lamplighter is a core part of our Well-being Framework. It includes guidance on managing long-term health conditions, such as diabetes, HIV or musculoskeletal concerns.

Our specific goals for Lamplighter include:

  • ensuring that Lamplighter is in place in all countries with 100 or more employees, which we aim to achieve by 2020
  • addressing local health risks and establishing local and national health improvement plans with partnerships between occupational health and our human resources and supply chain teams.

Since its launch, we’ve developed and evolved Lamplighter and our overall approach, so that they remain at the forefront of occupational health programmes. Our most recent improvement was to redesign Lamplighter to address the demographic and risk profile of employees.

Independent recognition for Lamplighter


Global Multinational Healthy Workplace Award (global achievement)

People Investor Award, Russia

National Business Group on Health Award, North America


BUPA-Business in the Community Well-being Award – UK & Ireland

Special Corporate Health Award in the category of Healthy Nutrition – Germany

HR Professional and Boussias Communications Workplace Well-being Award – Greece


Best Employer for Healthy Lifestyles – North America

Working Mother Top 100 Employer – North America

Canada’s Top Diversity Employer

Helping our employees thrive

Today’s fast-paced and rapidly changing world is exciting, but can also be stressful. We want our employees to understand their holistic health status. If we can help motivate them to reduce their risks and adopt healthy habits, they’ll have the skills to thrive and work more sustainably.

That’s the thinking behind our Thrive well-being workshops. In tandem with Lamplighter’s health checks and advice, we use them to bring to life the four pillars of our Well-being Framework (physical, emotional, mental and purposeful well-being). During the workshops we explain each of the pillars as a battery of energy that needs to be charged and used safely, as well as replenished and cared for in a sustainable way.

The workshops also engage senior leaders, as they play an important role in demonstrating, supporting and empowering leadership behaviours. This engagement helps us show that the Well-being Framework is not just theoretical, but a vital contribution to our way of operating sustainably. Since 2015, around 50,000 employees have taken part in our Thrive workshops.

The Thrive workshop was a good moment for me to take a look at different areas of my life and see how they all come together. Do they work well together? Are there any patterns that need change? That really added a lot of value.

Thrive workshop participant

We've also developed short videos to train people in what we call ‘healthy performance habits’ – ie keeping work and life in balance. These are available on our intranet and cover adaptability, collaboration, demands and pressure, emotional energy, empowerment, energy recovery, experimentation, focus and purpose.

Promoting mental well-being

Dollars money

Estimated cost to the global economy of poor mental health by 20302

There is increasing recognition of the need for mental well-being, and its importance to individuals and to society as a whole. According to the World Health Organization1, depression is expected to be the leading disease burden globally by 2030.

In 2015, mental health and substance abuse was included in the UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda (within Sustainable Development Goal 3 on Health and Well-being).

As a business, we've long been aware of the importance of mental health. Mental health has become one of our top three health issues, and is a central focus of our Lamplighter programme, which recognises that mental health is especially important in times of change or uncertainty. We’ve identified four elements that need to be in place to promote mental health initiatives:

  • leadership and management
  • communication and culture
  • scoping resilience, managing pressure
  • support.

At the same time, we know we need to keep adapting our approach to embrace the latest techniques, reflect changing attitudes, and to have a positive impact through and beyond our business in ways which support Sustainable Development Goal 3.

1 World Health Organization (PDF - 45.4kB)

2 Scaling-up treatment of depression and anxiety: a global return on investment analysis, The Lancet Psychiatry, 2016

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    2. 1940
    3. Recognising the ‘human factor’
    4. 1940's Mental Health in Industry document

      The 1940s witness a growing concern for the ‘human factor’ in industry. In 1948 alone, we publish five major articles in our staff magazine on the mutual impact of intangibles such as happiness, contentment and satisfaction on staff productivity and the importance of mental, as opposed to merely physical, health.

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    2. 1950
    3. New technologies, new techniques
    4. 1950s - 1960s cinema

      The popularity of film in the 1950s makes it possible to present information on a far greater scale than ever before imagined. We begin production of a series of educational films that our occupational health teams use to promote best practice and the prevention of ergonomic injury as we develop our thinking into the 1960s.

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    2. 1970
    3. The new science of occupational health
    4. 1970s Unilever Medical services document

      Our staff magazines promote awareness of the importance of good mental health for employee well-being. They include numerous articles on the relationship between stress and cardiovascular health.

      And ‘time-zone fatigue’ and the impact of circadian rhythm disruption on stress levels also feature as the number of business travellers increases. Issues such as alcoholism and prescription drug abuse are touched on, while suggested remedies range from relaxation techniques to regular exercise.

      1978: We form our Medical Study Group. A report commissioned by Unilever’s leadership examines the need for in-country and international medical services and advice. It recommends that traditional clinical activities give way to a broader concept of occupational medicine as a distinct branch of medical science concerned with the inter-relationship of work and health. We introduce worldwide minimum standards of occupational health services.

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    2. 1980
    3. Thinking afresh: integrating health and safety
    4. 1980s Unilever medical service

      1980: We establish our Safety, Health & Environment Advisory Committee to promote corporate policies and improve the effectiveness of occupational health and safety. The following year we rename Unilever Medical Service the Unilever Occupational Health Service, marking a shift in emphasis towards an integrated approach to strategic preventative measures.

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    2. 1990
    3. Healthy workforce, healthy business
    4. 1990's Occupational Health Policy for Unilever employees

      1997: Our Leadership Executive reviews the role of our Occupational Health function in the light of changes in our organisational structure. Occupational health and safety is seen as having a central role to play in the creation of a healthy, fit and happy workforce through education and risk management.

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    2. 2000
    3. Launching Lamplighter: worldwide health and well-being
    4. 2000s Lamplighter graphic

      2001: We introduce our Health, Well-being and Performance programme for senior leaders to boost their energy levels and help them manage their workloads and personal time.

      2005: We launch Lamplighter, our global health programme, to evaluate and provide physical and mental health support for our employees.

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    2. 2010
    3. Understanding the cost of mental health – to individuals and society
    4. 2010s Unilever Sustainable Living targets

      2010: Lamplighter reaches 30 countries and becomes a target in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. We commit to it reaching a total of 68 countries over 2012–2015.

      2011: The World Health Organization anticipates depression as the leading disease burden (PDF - 45.4kB) worldwide by 2030.

      2013: We establish Unilever’s first Mental Health programme, initiated in our UK and Ireland business.

      2014: We set up a Global Well-being Steering Team to guide the development of our well-being initiatives. We achieve our target for Lamplighter a year early, reaching 91,000 employees in 70 countries. Building on our momentum, we set a new Unilever Sustainable Living Plan target – the worldwide implementation of a mental well-being framework – which we complete in 2015.

      2015: Mental health is included in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 3 on Health and Well-being. We introduce our Thrive well-being workshops to promote purpose alongside emotional, mental and physical health.

      2016: We start to mark World Mental Health Day across our business and become founding corporate partners of Heads Together in the UK, a campaign to tackle stigma and change the conversation on mental health.

      2017: We introduce People with Purpose workshops to help employees see meaning in their work and home life and improve their well-being – 10,000 people take part. Our Thrive workshops reach 50,000 employees (2015–2017) while Lamplighter reaches 75,000 employees across 74 countries.

      And our impact analysis (2008–2017) shows that for every €1 we spend on Lamplighter programmes, we see a return of €2.44, showing that good health is good for our people and good for our business.

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Building awareness & providing support

A tectonic shift in attitudes to mental health

Dr Thirumilai Rajgopal

Dr Thirumalai Rajgopal – Dr Raj – is our Global Vice President of Medical and Occupational Health. He recognises it’s crucial to support employees’ mental well-being.

“Asking for help is the most important thing individuals can do when it comes to mental health. That’s why we’ve put a strong emphasis on ensuring that our employees are aware of our support and resources on all aspects of their well-being, and how to contact our assistance programmes. We ensure that employees are only one conversation, one click or one call from the help and support they need.

Across society, we’re experiencing a tectonic shift in people’s attitudes to mental health and well-being as mental health is acknowledged as a serious and growing problem. Of course, people still face difficulties in overcoming cultural and social stigma associated with mental health, but we’re creating a culture where mental health is actively discussed, managed and understood. The role of our senior leadership and their willingness to share their personal stories on the topic of mental well-being have been pivotal to the success of this programme.

While our Occupational Illness Frequency Rate (OIFR) rose over 2014−2017, paradoxically I was comfortable with this increase. It was prompted in large part by greater employee awareness and reporting of mental health issues, through the improved reporting systems we’d put in place. While this is evidence of the urgency of the issue, I believe it also reflects the fact that we've made talking about mental health, and managing it, more accessible.

With this support in place, I’m pleased to say we’ve now seen drop in our OIFR in 2018 to 0.58 ill health cases per million hours. This takes us well below our peak level of 0.78 in 2017. It strengthens the adage, “if you can’t measure accurately, you can’t provide the support needed.”

We’ve always been a business that sees it as our fundamental responsibility to promote and enhance the health of employees – and if our people are the best they can be, then that’s good for our business too.”

See Monitoring our safety performance for further details.

Easy access to support & training

Everyone employed by Unilever should be just one conversation, one phone call or one click away from support. We provide a range of options which include access to counselling services and employee assistance programmes that also extend to family groups. Employees can access online training on mental health, and we have also developed a personal resilience assessment and training tool. Alongside this, we’ve set up a global partnership to provide mindfulness training.


1 chat, 1 call, 1 click campaign

Clickwell – health information at your fingertips

Digitalisation of our well-being services is one of our important ambitions. In 2017 we launched the Unilever Clickwell app in the UK, Ireland and Turkey, bringing our well-being services and information to our employees anywhere, anytime.

Clickwell provides access to our well-being services such as our global Employee Assistance Programme. It can be used to set health challenges and track goals and offers culturally-appropriate healthy recipes.

Each country business can translate the app into their chosen language and customise it to best fit their workforce. In 2018 we introduced Clickwell to a further 21 countries as far apart as the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, Kenya, Bangladesh and Russia. Some countries have launched additional offerings too, such as Australia and New Zealand’s well-being portal that highlights support services, information, self-assessments and coaching, and India’s eKincare digital platform.

This work contributes to the following UN Sustainable Development Goal

  • Good Health and Wellbeing)

As part of our initiatives in the UK, we’ve trained some employees to become ‘mental health first aiders’. Our first aiders are points of contact who can share a first conversation or guide someone in accessing a range of professional help − a valuable way to identify early help for those who may be developing a mental health issue.


time to talk

It’s OK not to be OK

Twice a year, we promote mental health-specific communications for employees, including on World Mental Health Day each October.

In 2018, we ran our It’s OK not to be OK campaign. It featured a range of events such as health fairs in Turkey and the Netherlands, safe conversation space installations set up across all our UK sites, healthy lunches and games in Singapore, and mindfulness seminars in Brazil.

This work contributes to the following UN Sustainable Development Goal

  • Good Health and Wellbeing)

Working with others to promote mental health

In 2016 we became founding corporate partners of Heads Together in the UK, an initiative that combines a campaign to tackle stigma and change the conversation on mental health, with fundraising for a series of innovative mental health services.


Spotlight Heads Together

Mental Health at Work Gateway

Working with mental health charities such as Heads Together and Mind helps us increase our own understanding of the issues and build our impact within, and beyond, our business.

In 2018, we supported the launch of the Mental Health at Work Gateway, a new workplace mental health initiative set up in conjunction with both charities.

The UK-wide gateway is a free resource for employers and employees, bringing together information, advice, resources and training to improve well-being and mental health support. The launch at our London headquarters was introduced by His Royal Highness Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.

See Mental Health at Work

This work contributes to the following UN Sustainable Development Goal

  • Good Health and Wellbeing)

Raising awareness through our brands

Mental health is not just about the workplace. We have the opportunity to make a difference through our brands. We already have strong partnerships in place – through Heads Together in the UK, our brands have partnered with charities active in the mental health area. For example, VO5 has an ongoing partnership with the Mix, a multi-channel service for young people, offering expert information and online counselling on a variety of issues such as mental health and bullying.

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