Over 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, according to new research.
The new research by the British Chambers of Commerce and Unum confirms that the overriding impacts of staff absences are operational (88%) and on staff morale (76%) according to the results of the survey of over 1,000 businesses of all sizes and across all sectors. The business-to-consumer sector, which includes retail, catering, and hotels, reported even higher levels of impact with 93% of firms reporting operational impacts and 85% affecting staff morale.
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.
“62% offering benefits such as access to wellbeing support, private medical insurance”
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.
The results reflect the economic impacts of ill health in the workplace and the actions businesses are taking to promote and maximise staff wellbeing. The government is currently consulting on proposals to prevent health-related job loss, which will require businesses to take a more proactive role.
Businesses want staff to maintain good health and help them to return to work after a period of sickness. However, the process can be difficult and expensive for employers to manage. Employers would benefit from financial support and clearer guidance to help them invest in services that can support them to prevent and manage sickness absence.
Peter O’Donnell, Chief Executive Officer, Unum UK, said: “Sickness absence has a major impact on businesses of all sizes and across all sectors and it’s vital that employers prioritise the health and wellbeing of their workforce.
“Coping with illness can be very hard for employees and their families and good employers want to both support their people as much as possible and manage the negative impact on their business.”
“People are the most important asset of any business and a healthy and happy workforce lends itself to increased morale and productivity”
Jane Gratton, Head of People Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “People are the most important asset of any business and a healthy and happy workforce lends itself to increased morale and productivity. Many firms already take proactive steps to support the physical and mental wellbeing of staff and, when they have the capacity and resources, will offer a range of information, services and benefits.”
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