Wellbeing | Are employers failing sick workers?

Are employers failing sick workers?

The coronavirus pandemic has challenged the basis of many companies’ illness policies.

The virus, which takes a minimum of three weeks for patients to recover, forced businesses around the globe to review how they perceive absence due to illness within their organisations, with those employees who have been negatively impacted by such absences calling on leaders to integrate greater lenience into their measures.

However, regardless of this review of such policies, a new study conducted by Group Risk Development (GRiD) has found that one-third of employers do not make any early interventions to help staff return to work in the event that they’re absent for longer than six months owing to ill health, disability or injury.

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Similarly, 32% of employers don’t have any financial support in place for staff if they are absent for half a year or more. Of those employers that do not offer return-to-work interventions for employees, 52% said they simply can’t afford to implement such measures, whilst one-third believe that it is not their responsibility.  

However, of those employers that do offer early interventions to support a return to work for long-term absent employees, 50% provide this for all staff – 40% via insurance and ten per cent by self-funding.

For those employers who do offer return-to-work interventions, the most common types are: 

  • Emotional support, such as counselling (46%) 

  • Graded return-to-work plans (43%) 

  • Practical support such as access to a rehabilitation specialist (39%) 

  • Line manager training (34%) 

  • Access to medical specialists such as oncologists (31%) 

  • Access to a second medical opinion (28%) 

  • We pay for treatment (27%) 

  • Physio (24%)

Katharine Moxham, a Spokesperson for GRiD, explained that whilst the cost of supporting sick employees may seem significant, doing so is beneficial for the business. “Employees who are offered support at difficult times in their lives – be that financial, physical, emotional or social – feel more valued and are, therefore, more likely to return to work quickly,” she said.

“Not offering support, and/or removing income sources is by no means a motivator to get staff back at their desk. Of course, no employer should be advocating presenteeism where employees return to work before they are truly ready, but offering support to help staff return to work when they can isn’t just a win for the business, it is also greatly valued by staff,” Moxham added.

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