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Sickness absence a threat for SMEs but take-up of protection remains low

Only 8% of businesses have income protection in place

Sickness absence is severely impacting UK SMEs but take-up of protection products remains low, according to research from Unum.

The survey found 44% of UK SMEs reported at least one employee absent for four weeks or more in the last 12 months. 

The majority of SME bosses said sickness absence of over six months of a key employee would have a significant (44%) or even critical (24%) impact on the future success of the business.

More than half (55%) said they would do everything they could to aid a member of staff back to work after a period of illness.

Despite this, another recent study by Unum and the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) found uptake of core protection benefits is very low.

Only 8% of UK businesses surveyed offered income protection, 22% said they offered life insurance, 9% offered critical illness insurance, and 22% said they provide nothing at all in the form of financial protection benefits.

Peter O’Donnell, chief executive officer at Unum UK, warned that illness and long-term sickness absence can have a serious impact on individuals and their families as well as to businesses of all sizes and across every sector.

“Good employers want to support employees when they are unwell as our research shows, and making our services more modern and helping them better understand how products like group income protection can help, is an important place to start,” he added.