Need to know

21 January 2016

Three big health stories from recent weeks – and how they affect small businesses.

Anxiety at work

Why has this been in the news recently?

More than a quarter (28%) of workers in a survey by recruitment firm Adecco admitted to having called in sick because of anxiety1.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says that, in 2014-15, stress accounted for 35% of all work-related ill health cases and 43% of all working days lost due to ill health2.

What are the take-away points for small business employers?

  • Bupa’s own research3 shows that three quarters (76%) of SME leaders who’ve had an employee take a long sickness absence reported a significant impact on business growth, so it’s in employers’ interest to foster a environment that encourages employees to lead healthy lives.
  • HSE has identified six factors that can lead to work-related stress if they are not managed properly: demands; control; support; relationships; role; and change. Find out more about work-related stress.
  • If you (or a colleague) are experiencing stress, anxiety or any other mental health issue, you can call our Mental Health Line in confidence on 0330 123 0268^. We’ll arrange for you to speak to one of our counselors who will listen and guide you to the most appropriate support or treatment. If treatment funded by your health insurance is recommended, there is usually no need to see a GP first.

^ Lines are open 8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 8am-4pm on Saturday.We may record or monitor our calls.

Access to treatment funded through Bupa health insurance is subject to your benefits and underwriting terms. Pre-existing and chronic conditions are usually excluded.

Antibiotic resistance and the role of the workplace

Why has this been in the news recently?

Towards the end of last year, researchers found that a certain type of bacteria has developed resistance to one of the world’s strongest antibiotics4. The news came from China, but adds to growing global concern that bacteria are developing resistance faster than medicine can develop new drugs to combat them.

So how does this affect my small business?

It affects everyone, and employers small and large are in the ideal position to help reduce the spread of infections. One way of helping slow down antibiotic resistance is to promote good hand hygiene to reduce the spread of infections5. However, many people do not wash their hands as often as they say they do6.

It sounds simple, but giving your hands a thorough wash takes a little thought and care.

HIV in the workplace

Why has this been in the news recently?

There was a flurry of news stories around World AIDS Day in December, including the publication of research by the National AIDS Trust (NAT), which found that almost half of all media coverage on people living with HIV is negative compared to cervical and testicular cancer7.

Earlier research by the organisation found that 40% of people who are HIV-positive had not disclosed their condition at work, most commonly because they saw no need to do so8. Those who had disclosed their condition generally had a positive reaction from colleagues/bosses.

What are the take-away points for small business employers?

  • HIV may have little impact on people’s ability to work but is classed as a disability under the Equality Act 20109. So employers may have to make some reasonable adjustments in the workplace (eg, time off for appointments/changing tasks at work if employee is fatigued from certain medication)
  • We have plenty of information on HIV and AIDS (and the difference between the two), find out more about HIV and AIDs.
  • Further advice for employers dealing with HIV (PDF 1.6MB) at work is available from NAT.

What's next?

^ Lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. We may record or monitor our calls.


  1. Survey of 1,054 UK workers for Adecco, July 2015
  2. Health and Safety Executive: Work related stress, anxiety and depression statistics in Great Britain 2014-15
  3. /business/business-newsletter/business-growth
  4. NHS Choices: Last line in antibiotic resistance under threat
  5. Imperial College London: What can I do about antimicrobial resistance
  6. Michigan State University: Hand Washing Practices in a College Town Environment (PDF 2.2MB)
  7. NAT: People with HIV demonised in the press
  8. NAT: Working with HIV (PDF 1.9MB)
  9. Definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010