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Two-fifths of firms have had a long-term absence in the last two years

Four in 10 think protection products help to attract and retain employees

More than two-fifths (43%) of businesses have had employees absent from work for more than four weeks due to ill-health in the last two years, research shows.

The survey of 1,000 businesses by the British Chambers of Commerce and Unum found the overriding impacts of staff absences are operational (88%) and on staff morale (76%).

Respondents also reported financial (44%) and reputational (36%) impacts from staff absences.

Most businesses recognise the importance of supporting employee health and wellbeing, with 62% offering benefits such as access to wellbeing support, private medical insurance, occupational support services and healthy lifestyle benefits such as gym membership and cycle to work schemes.

The survey found that 41% of businesses believe that providing financial protection benefits, such as income protection insurance and critical illness cover, could or does help them to attract and retain employees. This rises to 52% for larger companies with more than 50 employees.

Jane Gratton, head of people policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said when people are absent though ill-health it is in everyone’s best interests that they are supported back into work as quickly as possible.

“Employers need access to good quality, affordable services to help them understand how to support their people in the best way, together with clear, up-to-date information and guidance on everyone’s rights and responsibilities,” she added.

Peter O’Donnell, chief executive officer of Unum UK, added that group income protection products are invaluable during a period of illness, as is access to early clinical help.