Lack of protection is significantly impacting UK business

Article date: 13 August 2012

  • 45% of employers believe long term sickness absence is a big issue for their business
  • 40% say colleagues have to pick up the work of absent employees
  • A fifth (17%) say they’ve seen other employees go off sick as a result

UK businesses are being hindered by a lack of effective sickness absence management, despite over half (53%) of employers believing they’re well equipped to deal with long-term absence, according to a new Aviva report.

Aviva’s annual absence management report, conducted to uncover and offer solutions to key issues affecting employer and employees, reveals the immediate impact an absent employee can have on the workplace if adequate support isn’t in place:

  • 40% of employers say someone else has to pick up the work
  • 27% say productivity falls
  • Nearly a quarter (22%) believe it impacts the business financially
  • 21% say service standards suffer

Furthermore, the report reveals that 17% of employers are seeing other members of staff go off sick when their colleagues are off long-term. 

In a bid to keep sickness absence levels down, over a third (37%) of employers say they encourage employees to have a good work-life balance, while one in five (22%) offer private medical insurance. Just 13% say they offer group income protection which, alongside financial protection, would provide crucial rehabilitation support to help employees back to their roles as quickly as possible.

There is some evidence that employers understand the benefit of early intervention in sickness management, with one in five (20%) providing staff training to help them spot the signs of stress. However, over a third of employers (34%) still rely on employees to tell them when they are unwell.   

The report reveals that sickness absence is a significant worry for employees too. Half the employees taking part in the research state that their key concern, behind their recovery (61%), is making ends meet if they were absent from work.

In addition to benefits such as group income protection, 52% of employees would like flexible working hours and 41% want as much time off as possible to help accommodate and assist with their recovery. A third of employees would like the flexibility to build their hours up and 35% want to know they have a regular income if they are off sick.

Steve Bridger, head of group risk at Aviva UK Health says: “Sickness absence not only has a knock on effect to other employees, but adds to the business concerns of employers as a whole. While it is encouraging that employers are implementing preventative measures to help them control the effects of sickness absence, take-up of one of the most effective solutions - group income protection - is still relatively low.

“Many of the challenges employers and employees face as a result of sickness absence can be addressed by group income protection. In addition to offering employers financial support, employees can receive a partial benefit if they make a staged return to work, while accessing a wide range of rehabilitation support to help aid their recovery.”

Aviva’s Group Income Protection policy offers employers financial protection as well as giving employees access to a range of rehabilitation support services. Dedicated Claims visitors can meet with the employer (and employee if appropriate) to discuss the individual’s circumstances. Where hours or responsibilities are reduced, a partial benefit can be paid to help ease an employee’s return to work.  

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If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:
Melissa Loughran - Aviva Press Office
Telephone: +44 (0)1904 452791
Mobile: +44 (0)7800 691947
Email: melissa.loughran@aviva.co.uk

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. Office for National Statistics "Sickness absence in the labour market – 2012". The research shows that 131 million days were lost to sickness absence in the UK in 2012 compared to 178 million days in 1993.

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