Employees should be auto-enrolled onto financial protection schemes says UK bosses

Article date: 6 August 2012

  • Just one in five (20%) employers feel equipped to help employees back to work following illness
  • 43% of employers believe employees should be auto-enrolled onto a scheme that protects them financially in the event of long-term illness.

New research1 from Aviva reveals that just one in five (20%) employers feel equipped to offer their employees rehabilitation support following long-term illness. This comes at a time when the government is calling for employers to be at the centre of managing employees back to work following absence.

Nearly a quarter (22%) of employers say that they don’t have the resource or expertise to manage people back into the workplace effectively. 25% would worry that they’d have to carry on paying sick pay.  

To help address this situation, a significant 43% of employers say that they think employees should be auto-enrolled onto a scheme that gives them financial protection in the event of long-term sickness absence. Around one in five (17%) employers say that they are already considering taking out group income protection.   
The research also reveals a worrying lack of awareness amongst employers regarding State support available to employees who are unable to work due to long-term illness.

Nearly two-thirds of employers (63%) admit that they don’t know how much benefit is paid through Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Moreover, nearly three quarters (72%), didn’t know that people in the work related activity2 could find that their entitlement to ESA stops after a year if they are considered capable of returning to work. Just one in ten (11%) employers had reviewed their sick-pay arrangements following the welfare reform changes.                                           
Employers were also unaware of the impact the new state benefits approach could have on employees with conditions such as cancer, MS and mental health issues, which can present different levels of severity at different times. This means that people with conditions such as these could find themselves in the work-related group and with limited financial support. 

When the situation was explained, over a third (38%) of employers felt that it would be a good idea to have a different approach for different conditions. However, a quarter of employers (24%) recognised the potential impact this could have on their employees, saying that they’d worry that employees would be forced back into the workforce when they are not well enough to work. One in five (22%) felt that it would be very difficult to have the correct measures in place to decide whether a person is fit for work.                             

Steve Bridger, head of group risk, Aviva says: “There is a concerning lack of awareness amongst employers about the State benefits relating to illness or injury. However, we’re encouraged to see that employers recognise the benefit of auto-enrolling employees onto a scheme that gives them financial protection if they are unable to work due to long-term illness and aids rehabilitation.

“At Aviva we’re working hard to uncover information gaps such as these and offer the right educational support and corporate benefit solutions to help employers address sickness absence, both now and in the future.”   

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If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:

Melissa Loughran: Aviva Press Office: 01904 452791: 07800 691947:
Notes to editors:

1. All statistics are from a nationwide survey of 1,000 British adult employees and 500 employers, carried out for Aviva by market researchers OnePoll. The opinion poll was hosted online between 26-27 June 2012.

2. The assessment phase for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) aims to confirm the severity of a condition or illness and the impact it has on an individual’s capability to work.  Those eligible for ESA will be placed in to either the Work Related Activity Group or Support Group.  Individuals in the Work Related Activity Group are considered capable of finding suitable employment and are given support to help them achieve this goal.  If an individual is placed in the Support Group, they are not expected to find work due to the severity of their condition.


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