Measures introduced by the Chancellor that aim to soften the impact of COVID-19 on business and individuals mean that accurate staff absence recording is vital, according to Aon.
The forthcoming COVID-19 Bill will temporarily allow statutory sick pay (SSP) to be paid from the first day of sickness absence, rather than the fourth day, for people who have COVID-19 or have been advised to self‑isolate.
Firms with fewer than 250 staff will be refunded for sick pay payments for up to two weeks.
Aon said this brings into sharp focus the need for employers to maintain accurate records of staff absences, and to ensure that any staff calling in unwell receive the most up-to-date guidance and information on what action to take.
However, Aon’s 2020 Benefits and Trends Survey indicated that 92% of employers still manually record absences either via a HR system or spreadsheet, with only 6% using the services of a specialist provider.
It is estimated that one in five employees may be off work at any one time because of COVID-19.
Jeff Fox, principal at Aon, said: “This will be an enormous challenge for businesses to face, as well as needing to get to grips with the government’s new stance on statutory sick pay.”
Aside from SSP, there are other implications for employee benefits that employers need to consider as a result of the 2020 Budget.
For example, there is an extension of the range of tax-exempt services that can be provided by employee assistance programmes (EAPs).
Aon said this is good news for employers, 92% of whom offer an EAP to employees, and at a time when mental health has risen up the corporate agenda.
“The specifics of what additional medical treatment services, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and the industry’s response, will become clearer over the coming weeks,” it added.
From early 2021, the government will provide a period of up to 60 days where people in problem debt will be protected from enforcement action by their creditors and the charging of further interest and fees on their debts.
The government also wants to support alternatives to high-cost credit such as payday loans by improving access to social and community lenders.
Aon said this is a positive development to support the financial wellbeing of some of the most financially vulnerable.
Almost half (48%) of companies are planning to support employee financial wellbeing too by implementing initiatives in the next 12 months, according to Aon’s research.
Meanwhile, the long-term challenges presented by an ageing population, which will place an ever-increasing burden of care on the state, has already been called out by some commentators as being largely overlooked in the Budget.
Many employers already acknowledge the impact of the ageing population, the increased burden of care on adults of working age and the prospect of people having to work for longer in a state of deteriorating health.
“Without a significant change of policy it is unlikely that the state will be able to keep up with this increased demand for care. Employers will increasingly be forced into making tough decisions about how much strain they are willing or able to take on themselves,” Aon said.