04 / 11 / 2010
What we did and why
How we did it
Results and next steps
Tips for other organisations
Northern Foods was established in 1937 as a family-run dairy business. In 1942 the business was registered as Northern Dairies and became a public company in 1956. The company changed its name to Northern Foods in 1973 to reflect the range of food it sold. Northern Foods has revenues of nearly £1billion employs over 9,000 staff across 20 operating sites in the UK and Ireland.
What we did and why
We wanted to reduce levels of sickness absence by addressing health issues in the workplace and improving employee health and well-being. Budget constraints were an issue, so we wanted to find a means of achieving this without using purely financial methods.
We created the Fit4life programme and designed it to integrate with national public health campaigns around increasing productivity, reducing levels of absence and improving and maximising the health and well-being of employees.
The programme aimed to:
• increase employee engagement across the company’s sites
• create a healthier workforce
• strengthen the company’s position as an employer of choice
• decrease business costs through reducing absence and lower employee turnover
• provide advice and healthier lifestyle choices at a minimal cost to the business
• deliver the initiative using the skills of existing staff.
Onsite occupational health services worked with HR to develop ideas for the programme and deliver activities. HR teams at each site drove the initiative and continually raised its profile.
These activities and initiatives included:
• free annual health checks for all staff
• personal health assessments with an onsite occupational health adviser
• creation of an annual health calendar to communicate external events and activities that staff could get involved with. For example, National Bike Week or National Stress Awareness Day
• new canteen providers offering increased healthy food options across all sites
• workplace health trainers
• healthy eating seminars
• access to a reflexologist
• access to a masseur
• breast cancer awareness sessions
• walking and running clubs
• chiropody service
• discounts at a local gym
• smoking cessation day
From the start, Fit4life was championed by the managing director and had complete commitment from the senior management teams. The HR teams meet monthly to review the KPIs, share updates and give updates on activities and develop next steps.
The results and overall impact on the business are:
• reduced incidence and/or duration of absenteeism
• a 15 per cent reduction in sick pay costs across the sites, totalling approximately £50,000
• the year-on-year reduction in absence has saved £200,000 in agency labour costs
• a reduced risk to the business associated with ill health. Over 150 individuals have taken health concerns to their GP following their health assessments
• maintained low level of employee turnover, leading to a well-trained, stable workforce
• high scores in employee satisfaction surveys in feeling valued and enjoying coming to work
Northern Foods is now taking the success of their healthy eating message to the wider community by talking to local primary schools and educating the potential workforce of the future, which includes many of their employees' children.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to implement a programme.
• Many services are provided for free by local PCTs.
• Charities such as Breast Cancer Awareness can provide information and advice sessions.
• Attending conferences such as Health and Well-being at Work provides opportunities to join other initiatives.
• Common themes arising from health MOTs are being used to target the areas to be looked at in the coming year, for example mental well-being, exercise and diet.
Programme Lead - Health Work & Wellbeing
0113 306 3012