Flexible Working & Family Rights:

How the changing employment law could increase productivity and reduce presenteeism in your business.

By Gemma Haigh – July 6th, 2022

Originally planned for the 2019 Queen’s Speech, the latest Employment Bill could land later this year and is expected to include a new right for employees to request flexible working from day one of their employment.

By 2nd August 2022, EU Member States will implement the EU Work/Life Balance Directive, which includes new rights for carers and working parents (European Commission, 2022). The new directive will give workers returning from parental leave, carers and all working parents of children (up to 8 years old) the right to request flexible working arrangements.

Post-Brexit, the UK does not need to implement this ruling but has promised to match the new rights for carers and is expected to follow suit on some elements of flexible working.

What is ‘flexible working’?

Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee’s needs. As examples, this could include working from home or offering flexible start and finish times (gov.uk, 2022). Covid has meant that a number of organisations have moved towards flexible working and home working has become ‘the norm’ in a number of industries.  

Many businesses are under increased pressure from employees to accommodate this flexibility post-pandemic and in a recent survey by Lewis Silkin (2021) on post-Covid employment policies, 63% of respondents thought flexibility is of more importance than work location when incentivising staff, with 33% considering it as important as salary.

What would this mean for your business?

Despite initial reservations from some employers, this isn’t bad news for businesses. If implemented correctly, flexible working practices can actually increase productivity within a workforce and lead to a much healthier and happier team.

How? Presenteeism has become increasingly prevalent in workplaces throughout the pandemic and recent years, as the lines between work life and home life often blur. Presenteeism can look like employees forcing themselves into the office when they are unwell, or doing extra work from home, to prove their productivity and worth.

Data has shown that per employee, up to 35 days are lost per year because of presenteeism, compared with just three days per employees due to absenteeism (Financial Times, 2019).

Put simply, many people only take a break to refuel when their tank is empty instead of when it’s half full. This can lead to physical and mental exhaustion and longer periods of absence when employees do take sick leave. By creating a healthier working environment, staff take the breaks they need and improve their own health, lessening the risk of presenteeism in a business.

So how can flexible working help your business?

Introducing a policy of flexible working can reduce the time spent dealing with individual formal requests and gives your staff the freedom and autonomy to work in their most effective way. By creating this culture, you are showing your team that you trust them to complete their allocated tasks but also care about their wellbeing whilst they complete them.

Here are some ways this could look in practice for your employees:

  • Bad night’s sleep? If the organisation doesn’t require you be logged on until 10am, employees can get that extra hour in bed and be more productive when they start work.
  • Sick children? Working from home whilst trying to parent can be incredibly stressful. Allow employees a day off without having to worry about pay; they’ll pay you back in productivity when they’re back in the office.
  • Lead from the front! Show your staff that you are implementing a healthy work/life balance, set ‘email free’ times, share posts to show remote workers you are taking a break from your desk, talk openly about wellbeing and break the taboo of ‘feeling the pressure’.
  • Why not introduce a wellbeing hour? No meetings, no screen time and some fresh air can have a huge impact on staff wellbeing. Encourage your employees to break up their day by getting outdoors or taking some time to stretch in between meetings can help boost energy levels and overall wellbeing.

Many businesses are also clearly outlining their flexible working policies in their recruitment processes, helping to attract potential new employees who have this as a high priority on their list when looking for a new role. What’s more, without a flexible working policy, you could lose valued members of staff because of a rigid, outdated approach. Can your business afford to lose employees to your competitors?

To summarise, a team that feels valued and happy will work harder than a team who feel burnt out and trapped by a 9-5pm routine that means they dread the next time their child is unwell or the nursery closes early for training. If the past two years have taught us anything, it is that we never know what is around the corner but one thing is for certain, caring for your team’s mental health is always a good business decision.

If you want to support your team’s wellbeing and create a healthy and happy environment in your organisation, get in touch today.

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About Gemma Haigh

Gemma is one of the Project Leads for the Business Health Matters programme, overseeing the Workplace Health Check service, funded by the UK Research and Innovation’s Healthy Ageing Challenge fund. Gemma is a parent herself and enjoys the work life balance in her role at Active Lancashire.

Business Health Matters Reaches New Milestone for Lancashire Businesses

We are proud to announce that we have now trained over 100 employees from Lancashire-based businesses as part of our Workplace Health Champion programme.

Tanya, a workplace health champion tutor from our partners in South Ribble Borough Council, presents Level 2 certificates to newly qualified champions from local businesses.

Part of Active Lancashire, the strategic lead for sport and physical activity in Lancashire, and funded by the European Social Fund, Business Health Matters has developed this training programme in response to the rising challenges and concerns over employee health and wellbeing, increased levels of work-related stress, greater numbers of absence due to poor health and the prominent mental health concerns within organisations of all industries.

“The Workplace Health Champion Level 2 Training was extremely useful as a Manager,”

Donna Marshall, Deputy CEO & Partnership Manager at Selnet.

“The learning and group discussion brought about lots of ideas on how we can make our workplace a happier and healthier one. I’m looking forward to putting in place some new schemes with support of our other Health Champions.” 

Donna Marshall, Deputy CEO & Partnership Manager at Selnet.

The newly trained workplace health champions, now equipped with the appropriate skills and knowledge, can use their unique understanding of their own organisation to identify what their team needs. Whether it is forming a lunchtime walking group or putting individuals through their mental health first aid, the champions have the ability to address the specific challenges their business faces when it comes to wellbeing in the workplace.

Danielle Steenbergen, Salon Manager at the Salon at Maxy Farm, was one of the first businesses to take advantage of the training. 

“I think the impact of the programme on businesses in Lancashire could be huge. Offering opportunities like this will not only help people become healthier, but also shows employees that you care about them as a whole person, not just as employees.”

Danielle Steenbergen, Salon Manager at the Salon at Maxy Farm.

As the community of workplace health champions grows, the more we will see organisations waking up to the new pandemic of poor wellbeing and looking for opportunities to support their staff and boost the health of their workforce. With this emerging network of individuals advocating better health and sharing their experiences, organisations can begin to tap into what is affecting their workers and draw from the successes of others to shape the future of Lancashire’s wellbeing. 

To find out more about the workplace health champions training, contact the Business Health Matters team on 01772 299838.

For further contact information, click here.

Three Hidden Ways That Poor Mental Health May Be Affecting Your Business’ Bottom Line

Businesses across Lancashire are increasingly recognising the importance of employee mental health and are starting to ask how they can improve mental wellbeing in the workplace.

In 2021, mental health issues were the main reason for employees taking time off work, which is higher than the percentage of absences that were due to COVID. Additionally, 1 in 4 employees admit to taking time off (when they are not ill) because of burnout, stress and tiredness, which if left untreated can lead to further mental health issues . These numbers are expected to rise as we come out of the pandemic.

But how else does poor mental health affect your business? It is much easier to recognise the ways that poor physical health impacts your bottom line but could you identify the hidden ways that poor mental health affects your organisation?

Below are just three lesser-known consequences that arise for businesses as a result of poor employee mental health:

  1. Productivity drops because of low engagement – employees who are affected by stress or mental health problems such as anxiety or even depression, can really struggle to go about their daily tasks as they regularly would. The ability to focus on one task or multi-task can be extremely challenging, meaning that productivity rates in your business could plummet as a result of employees experiencing these issues.
  2. Team dynamic suffers – when a colleague is experiencing poor mental health, they often isolate themselves from others and can sometimes struggle with effective communication. As an organisation, this can be costly as essential work processes can quickly breakdown, and as a result, tasks take much longer or even end up unfinished.
  3. Human error occurs – we’re all aware that when we are stressed, feeling down or frustrated, our decision making is affected. It’s similar for those with poor mental health as the ability to concentrate, think clearly and pay attention to detail is affected. This can easily result in mistakes being made within the workplace.
    Just how costly could a human error be in your business?

Do you see issues like this in your business? What are you doing to prevent them reoccurring?

Mental health is no longer a taboo subject in the workplace, but as a business owner, you may not know how to approach the topic of mental health with your employees. We’re here to help. If you don’t know where to start and need some FREE bespoke guidance on what your team would benefit from, get in touch with us and we will be happy to help.

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Four Ways To Build Mental Resilience In Your Team

How do you feel when things go wrong at work?

How do your employees react when a stressful situation arises?

Throughout our lives, we all face periods of high stress. In a work setting, this could be internal conflict, the loss of a major client or an extremely busy period. How do your employees react in these situations? Over three quarters (79%) of workers in the UK state they have experienced burnout, with increased work pressures and mental health challenges being the main causes for stress and fatigue.

Businesses are constantly looking for ways to support colleagues through stressful periods so that they can bounce back from challenges and remain in work.

Resilience is often defined as adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress (American Psychological Association, 2014). This varies from person to person and it’s essential to remember we all have our own response to stressful situations. Other contributing factors can often affect our levels of mental resilience and it’s really important to be empathetic as a leader and consider the external influences when supporting your employees.

No one can be mentally tough all of the time, however as employers, you can provide the setting, policies and support to your team members so that they can develop their own mental resilience. The time spent fostering a more mentally-resilient team now pays off tenfold in the future, so we’re sharing four ways you can start to nurture employee resilience:

  • Identify triggers – Each employee will have their own ‘triggers’ in the workplace.  Ensuring that mistakes are not punished or discussed in a group setting can help stop the development of a trigger. For existing triggers, it’s a good idea to identify these and talk to employees about them, to create a plan of how to respond when triggers occur. Reframing triggering situations into challenges often helps employees see them as opportunities for growth, removing some elements of fear and the risk of a fight or flight response. Our partners at Lancashire Mind offer a wealth of training to help get started with this: https://www.businesshealthmatters.org.uk/projects/wellbeing-packages/
  • Support systems – Each organisation is unique, however ensuring that there are supportive pathways in place for employees is essential in every business, especially in times of adversity. This can be ensuring that there is some form of HR support, internal or external, and a clear channel for colleagues to speak to HR staff. Introducing a ‘buddy’ scheme in the workplace can also provide a safe space for conversation and allow others to offer resolutions that an employee may not have thought of. A problem shared is a problem halved!
  • Set SMART targets – By agreeing on clear, tangible and achievable targets, employees know what is expected of them in work and can break down their targets into smaller steps, which helps alleviate the risk of feeling overwhelmed. Regularly checking in with employees on their targets, at a rate that works for them, helps employees develop resilience as the smaller bumps along the way are worked through together, with your support.
  • Physical health – encouraging employees to take care of themselves outside of the working environment is key to building healthier and more resilient teams. Introducing wellbeing breaks and outdoor activities (such as a lunchtime walking group or team activity) allows employees to take a break and come back with a focused, renewed energy to tackle their work. To help with this, why not encourage one of your employees to become a Workplace Health Champion for your business? Our free, ESF-funded training means you’ll have someone in the team who drive internal initiatives, encourage your staff to get active and help promote a healthier working environment.

If you’d like help getting started with your team’s wellbeing and learn more on how to build their mental resilience, we’d love to help.

Get in touch!

Made in Lancashire, for Lancashire businesses!

Lancashire is the proud home of the hotpot, the UK’s first motorway and is the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. Today, the rolling hills of the Pennines are the backdrop to bustling towns, full of passionate people and innovative businesses who are proud to call the red rose County their home. 

However, local employers are reporting rising levels of stress and a disproportionate number of working-age individuals are not in work, compared to the rest of the UK. Approximately 200,000 people in the county are economically inactive, with almost a third of these on long-term sick (Nomis, 2021). This presents a rising challenge to Lancashire’s prosperity and future success. 

To tackle these concerning issues, funding was secured by Active Lancashire to develop Business Health Matters. Along with the University of Central Lancashire, Lancashire Mind and ukactive, the programme offers a suite of solutions for local businesses such as health checks, wellbeing services and free, European Union-funded training for employees. 

Not only was Business Health Matters developed in the heart of Lancashire, but proud Lancastrians deliver the programme too. Staff from leisure centres and local authorities with businesses to identify the support they need and deliver tailored services, with a shared goal of making Lancashire a healthier and happier place to work and live. 

To take a look at the proud partners behind Business Health Matters, please click the video below. 

So, if you run a local business, feel passionately about looking after your staff and contributing to the future of a healthier and more prosperous Lancashire, take a look at the help available, here: 

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Take the first step

Make an Impact on Lancashire’s Workplace Health at Our Focus Groups

We are holding focus groups to better understand the needs of businesses in various industries and sectors, in order to strengthen our workplace health services and define the future of similar services in Lancashire.

The Business Health Matters initiative not only provides workplace health services to Lancashire-based businesses, but it is part of a trailblazing research project, backed by the UKRI – Healthy Ageing Challenge. Our goal is to contribute to the research and improvement of health and wellness programmes available to businesses around the county and we need your help to do so.

Attend one of our focus groups and make a difference in Lancashire’s workplace health.

Sign up today
View dates

We are searching for key decision makers within local businesses, such as senior managers, business owners, HR managers, chief executives and directors to contribute their thoughts and experience. Participants will be required to work in the following industries, based in Lancashire:

  • Legal, financial and professional services
  • Manufacturing and engineering
  • Care
  • Construction

Your organisation will receive 5 free workplace health screenings or a choice of one of our wellbeing offers (valued at least £300+VAT) in exchange for your time. Expenses for travel will be covered as well.

Upcoming Dates for Focus Groups

The dates and locations for the upcoming focus groups can be seen below. If you are interested in taking part in our research but are unable to attend the available dates or your business is not in one of the industries outlined above, we still want to hear from you so please get in touch!

Legal & Financial decision makers

Wednesday 13th April
12pm – 2pm
Girlguiding NWE Region Headquarters, Preston

  • Lunch provided
  • Travel reimbursed
Sign up
Manager of manufacturing firm

Manufacturing and Engineering

Wednesday 27th April
8am – 10am
Birchall Foods, Burnley

  • Breakfast provided
  • Travel reimbursed
Sign up
working in care

(inc. Childcare)

Tuesday 10th May
12pm – 2pm
Great Places, Blackpool

  • Lunch provided
  • Travel reimbursed
Sign up


Wednesday 11th May
8am – 10am
Preston College, Preston

  • Breakfast provided
  • Travel reimbursed
Sign up

If you are interested in taking part, please contact nmoulds@activelancashire.org.uk to sign up.

For updated dates, courses and further information, please visit our events calendar.

Sign up today

The Salon at Maxy Farm Leads the Way with Their Own Health Champions!

Staff at The Salon at Maxy Farm have become the first health and beauty business in Lancashire to train as ‘Workplace Health Champions’, thanks to the ESF-funded training on offer from Business Health Matters.

8 employees from across the business recently completed a Level 2 qualification to learn more about the key factors for living a healthier life, both inside and outside of the workplace. Staff covered modules on nutrition, physical activity and considerations around mental health in the 1-day course, equipping them with the skills they need to improve their own health and inspire colleagues to do the same.

Salon Manager, Daniella Steenbergen, told us:

“As soon as I heard about the training, I wanted to offer it to our staff so that we could get a better idea of how to look after ourselves physically and mentally, both in and out of work. The courses are the first of their kind in Lancashire so we were really keen to sign up and become the first in our industry to have our very own Workplace Health Champions!”

“The multiple lockdowns over the last 2 years have hit our industry really hard and we had definitely noticed an increase in issues, particularly around mental health. As a result, we felt really passionate about supporting our staff with some tools and knowledge on how to work on these areas. The day with the team from Business Health Matters was really well-structured and informative, with a lot of discussion and team work that helped us understand how we can apply what we were learning to our workplace.”

The training focuses on simple and manageable ways to improve health and wellbeing within work so that staff can feel empowered to take control of their own wellbeing, whilst signposting their colleagues to support that can help them make healthier choices. Businesses can select a Level 2 (1-day) or Level 3 (3-day) option and both routes are free to employed staff working within Lancashire-based businesses.

According to research carried out by Talentlms, 91% of companies say that upskilling opportunities in work have made their staff more productive. 80% of staff also reported that upskilling opportunities boosted their confidence. As a result, businesses benefit from greater performance and resilience during challenging times.

Staff from The Salon at Maxy Farm with Mike Rhodes from Business Health Matters

We asked the staff for their feedback

Eden Walmsley, a Beauty Therapist at the salon, explained:

“The training has already made such a difference to my work. I speak to clients all day every day and they can often talk to me about a range of things. I’ve felt a lot more confident discussing issues around mental health since the training and within the team. We’ve started to make plans to include more physical activity in our weeks including walking, yoga and even Zumba!”

Daniella added:

“I genuinely think that this training should be made compulsory for employers across the county. Offering opportunities like this will not only help people become healthier but also shows employees that you care about them as a whole person, not just as employees. From the feedback we have had from staff following the training, I can already see how excited they are to put their learning in to practice!”

Lancashire-based organisations are invited to take advantage of this free training, which is delivered by a range of local delivery partners across the county.

Find out more

To learn more about the Workplace Health Champion Training on offer from Business Health Matters and check the eligibility criteria, please click below!

Workplace Health Champion Training
Register Your Interest

The Benefits of Upskilling Your Staff with our Workplace Health Champion Training

Businesses thrive when employees are healthy, happy and empowered to make positive changes. But, it can be challenging to know where to start when improving workplace health. We’ve created the following video which explains how your staff can benefit from our FREE training here in Lancashire and become ‘Workplace Health Champions’.

Why should you upskill your staff?

Upskilling your team has a range of benefits for your employees and your business. These include:

  • Improved knowledge – By undertaking training, your staff increase their knowledge on specific subjects and can share these with colleagues to make positive changes in the workplace

  • Increased productivity – Upskilling staff boosts their job satisfaction and overall levels of productivity

  • Soft skill development – Alongside technical skills, it’s important your employees develop their soft skills too. This can include communication, leadership, problem solving and work ethic. With a number of people working remotely, it’s essential that these skills continue to develop in the workplace

  • Greater staff retention – Investing in opportunities for your employees shows your commitment to their professional development and your appreciation for their hard work. Your staff will feel valued and want to stay with an employer that invests in them

  • A more motivated and efficient team – when provided with training opportunities, your staff will have a brighter outlook on their future with your company

The benefits of upskilling staff (infographic):
91% of companies say upskilling has made their staff more productive.
80% of employees say that upskilling has boosted their confidence.

So why should you upskill your staff with our Workplace Health Champion training?

Health and wellbeing initiatives are incredibly important to all organisations. Our training provides your team with the tools and support they need to run health and wellbeing initiatives in your workplace.

By having a workplace health champion in your organisation, you will have one or a number of individuals, who are passionate about improving and maintaining the wellbeing of your employees.

They can also help in further identifying the health needs of your team and signpost colleagues to local support. Your champion will become a gateway to better health for your organisation, acting as one of your first steps towards a healthier and happier workplace.

However, the training is just the beginning. After their Level 2 or Level 3 training, your health champions will be welcomed into a growing network of fellow health champions from across Lancashire, where they will continue to receive support and resources to assist them with their activities. This network is continually growing and provides an endless supply of further inspiration and support to your workplace health champions.

Take the first step towards a healthier working environment today, and get in touch with our team today!

Upcoming Course Dates
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Courses are NCFE-Accredited and free to Lancashire-based businesses. For more information about eligibility to access this free training offer, click here.

How to Champion Mental Health in the Workplace

Business Health Matters and Lancashire Mind are encouraging businesses across the county to champion mental health within the workplace and assess current working practices to make 2022 the ‘Year of Employee Wellbeing’.

With 1 in 6 workers experiencing stress, anxiety or depression, supporting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace has never been so important and good practice doesn’t have to cost the earth.

Embrace open dialogues surrounding mental health in the workplace

Creating a workplace culture where staff of all levels of seniority feel they can speak openly and ask for support is vital, not only in promoting positive health and wellbeing but also for general productivity, staff retention, team connectivity and overall business success.  

Great business leaders understand that good mental health and wellbeing within the workplace starts at the top, and this means that management teams and business leaders also need to prioritise their own mental health.

Sharing challenges transparently often helps to connect teams and remind colleagues that we are all human and can only do our best.

How do you connect your team virtually?

Feeling connected in a virtual world can be challenging, especially with diminished levels of human interaction.

Pick up the phone instead of sending emails, take virtual tea breaks with colleagues and put five minutes aside to ask how someone is feeling.

How well do you know your team?

Are you aware of which colleagues need more support?

Do you know which team members live by themselves or reside in busy households and may struggle to find quiet spaces?

Prioritise check-ins, 1-2-1s and team brews, and don’t be afraid to ask someone how they are feeling.

Set healthy boundaries

When the lines between work and home blur, it can be difficult to distinguish positive workplace boundaries.

Do staff send emails out of hours, regularly work at weekends and reply on annual leave?

If so, then you may need to assess your overall wellbeing approach and remind staff that downtime is important.

Management teams should also look out for each other and ensure that they prioritise their own mental health and wellbeing, creating a culture where all staff feel valued, supported and able to share challenges.

Encourage daily activity

Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups, and is a key part of keeping a healthy, productive workforce.

Why not introduce virtual-walk-meetings, or allow flexible working to encourage employees to exercise during their breaks?

Walks in the fresh air or taking time to stretch in between meetings can help boost energy levels and overall wellbeing.

If the past two years have taught us anything it is that we never know what is around the corner and that mental health is no longer the taboo subject it once was.  

Championing mental health and wellbeing at work could be our chance to create a happier, more productive and engaged workforce, and surely that is a winning formula for all.  

Find the right support for your business today, click here to view the services available.

3 Ways to Improve Workplace Health and Wellbeing in 2022

Every business is driven by the people working within it and without healthy, positive and energised team members, productivity drops and businesses begin to slow down.
So we’re sharing some ways for business owners, directors, HR managers and line managers in Lancashire to get 2022 started in the best (and healthiest) way.

Follow the tips and advice below to help improve the health and wellbeing of your employees

But firstly, what is workplace health and wellbeing?

The term refers to the support, management and promotion of both the physical and mental health of all employees in an organisation. Over recent years, there has been a shift in how we work and our attitudes to our own health and wellbeing, which has been heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic. Now is the time for businesses in Lancashire to benefit from this and support their employees to achieve better workplace health.

Below are three ways to get started this January!

Survey your staff:

The best way to identify what needs to change is to ask questions. By using suggestion boxes, or simple survey software such as survey monkey, short doodle polls or smart survey, employees can anonymously answer questions on topics such as overall health, working environment, working culture and share their ideas for change.

Why not empower one of your staff to become a workplace health champion and they can lead on collating staff feedback?

Motivate your team:

Group activities, competitions and challenges are great ways to motivate your team and spark more energy in the workplace. By running a physical activity competition, employees will be motivated to compete against each other and win a prize for their efforts. The competitions can be as challenging as you require them to be and could include a lunchtime press-up or squat contest, a team sport activity or a prize draw entry for each time an employee shows they have walked 10,000 steps in a month.

Another way to motivate your team would be to start a conversation about physical and mental health in your workplace with wellbeing workshops, growing their awareness of their own health and showing them that their health is your priority. See what workshops are available here.

Be flexible:

Many workplaces have embraced a more flexible approach to working over the last two years. When possible, promoting an adaptable work pattern such as remote working and flexible hours can alleviate stress levels and allow employees to enjoy a more relaxed feel to the working day.

Introducing wellbeing hours can have a huge impact on staff wellbeing, where employees are encouraged to take some time outdoors, exercise and do things they enjoy once or twice a week.

Workplace health begins with a single step and by implementing one or two of the suggestions above this month, your business will already be on the journey to a healthier and more productive future!

To find out more about how Business Health Matters can help with our free training and our comprehensive screenings developed right here in Lancashire, please click here.

  • Blackburn Council
  • Blackpool Council
  • Burnley Leisure
  • Fylde Council
  • Great Places Housing Group
  • Hyndburn Leisure
  • Innovate UK
  • Lancaster City Council
  • Mind Matters
  • Pendle Leisure
  • Ribble Valley Council
  • Rossendale Leisure
  • South Ribble Council
  • The Lancashire Colleges
  • UK Active
  • West Lancashire Council
  • Wyre Council
  • YMCA