Money worries force 'working wounded' back to their desks before time

Article date: 10 May 2010

  • 78% of employees questioned would consider returning to work from long term absence before they are 100% better
  • 68% said family finances was their key concern when on sick leave with 29% saying meeting mortgage payments was a major worry.

A new 360 degree study of UK businesses and their employees suggests that the majority of UK employees (78%) would be prepared to jeopardise their long term health by returning to work from sickness absence before they’re 100% fit. By contrast, just 22% said they would never be prepared to sacrifice their health in order to get back to the office quickly1.

The “early intervention prevention” report from Aviva UK Health also pinpoints money worries as the root cause for this damaging trend. 49% of those questioned said they’d come back to their desk early if they thought their family couldn’t cope financially while a further 11% claimed that fear of losing their job would hasten their return to work.

Kevin Murdoch, senior proposition development manager at Aviva UK Health comments: “Long term sickness can have a major impact on an individual and their family. And in fact, the knock on effects in terms of increased stress and financial worries can at times be as hard to cope with as the actual condition itself – particularly if a bread winner is affected. 

"The disturbing findings in our survey highlight just how poorly equipped to survive a period of long term absence many of us are and how this can lead us to make decisions we might live to regret.”

The survey also reveals that eight out of 10 employees (79%) felt they couldn’t get by on less than half salary. In reality, just 40% of employers surveyed offered this level of financial support to those on long term sick leave.

As separate research from Aviva recently showed that without further borrowing, the average British household could get their hands on just £914 of disposable cash - less than two weeks of the average weekly household expenditure of £471 – it’s no wonder that many feel under impossible pressure2.  

The irony is that by taking out income protection – which pays  a regular tax free income should you be unable to work due to illness or accidental injury – families could easily be spared from many of the hardships of long term absence. As well as a regular injection of funds, customers could get access to a wide range of rehabilitation support including counselling services such as cognitive behavioural therapy, physiotherapy, occupational health and advice on improving workplace accessibility to supports their timely return to work. 

Yet despite modest premiums, uptake among UK households is still relatively low. Industry figures suggest an income protection gap of £190 billion and the gap is still increasing3.

Kevin Murdoch continues: “While the government’s newly introduced 'fit notes' initiative aims to encourage a prompt return to work, nobody would wish them to come back before they’re 100% fit and able. 

"Returning to work prematurely from an illness or injury without the appropriate support could be detrimental to the health of an employee and from a business perspective employers will reap few benefits from such 'presenteeism' – a lose, lose situation. But, without adequate funds, some breadwinners will inevitably take drastic action in order to keep afloat.

 “Health is the most precious gift and we abuse it at our peril. Yet that’s exactly what the majority of employees questioned in our survey claim to be prepared to do if illness or injury threatens their family’s livelihood. We urge people to take steps to protect themselves if they are unable to work as a result of illness or injury.

"Aviva’s Income Protection Solutions for example, helps take the pressure off finances and enables you to concentrate on your health and hopefully a speedier recovery. Surely this is a worthwhile investment,” he concludes.

Few of us like to think that we might lose our income through illness or injury.  However, it can and does happen. Last year, there were over 2.4 million people aged between 18-64 claiming incapacity benefit4. Of those, over 80% were claiming for more than six months and 40% claiming for more than five years. So it pays to plan for this eventuality. Income Protection plans from providers like Aviva can cover you for illness or injury for around the cost of a monthly take-away for two5.


For further information contact:
Amber Chable, PR and Communications Manager, Aviva UK Health 
Telephone: 023 80359 383        

Notes to editors:

1 All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from Lightspeed Research. Total sample size was 500 employers and 1,000 employees. Fieldwork was undertaken in January 2010. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted.

2 Consumer research carried out for Aviva Life by Opinion Matters through poll of 1,008 population aged between 16 and 80. Undertaken in January 2010.

3 Swiss re report – Term and Health report 2009 p5, DWP.

4 Office for National Statistics – quoted in Dame Carol Black report, Working for a Healthier Tomorrow, 2008.

5 For a Male, Aged 30 next birthday, Normal retirement age 65, Occupation Class 1, Deferred Period of 52 weeks, accepted on standard underwriting terms with an insured benefit of £1,000 per month, will pay a premium of £16.90 per month. This benefit of £1,000 will be paid subject to fulfilling the deferred period and claim conditions for over 30 years. This benefit will change each year (on the claim anniversary) in line with the consumer price index.

About Aviva’s Income Protection Solutions
Aviva’s Income Protection Solutions is a flexible Income Protection product offering competitive rates. Key features include:

  • Guaranteed or Reviewable rates.
  • Cover provided for 60% of the first £25k of your client's earnings, then 50% of the remainder up to a maximum of £180k.
  • A choice of retirement ages up to 70 years old.
  • Option of Limited Payment Term paying benefit for up to five years.
  • Deferment period choice of four, eight, 13, 26, 52, 56, 104 and 112 weeks.
  • Guaranteed Insurability Option.
  • Lump sum benefit on death; during the first 12 months of a claim.
  • Level or Index Linked (Retail Price Index) benefit basis.

Income Protection Solutions focuses on minimising absence and getting employees back to work promptly through innovative use of vocational rehabilitation techniques available through its occupational health and specialist healthcare teams, as well as external specialist rehabilitation services.

Health and Wellbeing from Aviva
Established in 1990 as the healthcare arm of Norwich Union, Norwich Union Healthcare was re-branded to Aviva Health UK Limited in 2009. Part of the Aviva group, the world’s fifth largest insurance group, we provide a range of private medical insurance, income protection, occupational health and group life products and services that cover over 2,850,000 lives. We are one of the largest providers of income protection, group life and private medical insurance in the UK.

Aviva Health also provides occupational health solutions and services to a wide range of industry sectors. By utilising their large fleet of purpose built mobile clinics and approved medical centres, staffed by a team of experienced occupational physicians and nursing staff, the services are designed to meet the individual needs of clients.

Aviva Health UK Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority and is a member of the Association of British Insurers and the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Aviva’s news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva’s internet press centre at

About Aviva

  • Aviva is the world’s fifth largest* insurance group, serving 53 million customers across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.
  • Aviva's main business activities are long-term savings, fund management and general insurance, with worldwide total sales of £45.1 billion and funds under management of £379 billion at 31 December 2009. 
  • We are the largest insurance services provider in the UK and one of the leading providers of life and pensions products in Europe. 
  • Aviva’s life and pensions business in the UK has a total market share of 10.3%** and a leading position in its key markets of savings, protection and annuities.
  • The Aviva media centre at includes images, company and product information and a news release archive
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* based on gross worldwide premiums at 31 December 2008
** Source: ABI data released March 2010


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