Twenty per cent of employers do not offer any form of support for newly injured, ill or disabled staff. Of the four in five who do offer support for this group, on average they only facilitate three types of support for staff in this position, when in fact a much broader range is required to help employees either stay in or return to work.
That’s the findings from research undertaken on behalf of GRiD, the industry body for the group risk protection sector. The organisation believes that many employers will have access to a comprehensive range of support for this group via their existing employee benefits schemes but may not be fully aware of the options.
According to the research, from a range of 17 different types of typically provided support, phased return-to-work plans are most commonly offered to staff for new injuries, illness or disability, by 33% of employers. Twenty-six per cent of employers offer emotional support (such as counselling) for the same purpose, and mental health first aiders are in third place with a fifth (20%) of employers saying they have this type of support in place for newly injured, ill or disabled staff.
Least prevalent are offering access to medical concierge (9%), medical specialists (such as oncologists) (9%) and nurse-led support services (7%).
By way of example, employee benefits such as group risk products (employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness) often have such a wide variety of embedded support so any employer who offers these products is likely to have a great deal more than just three support types available to their staff.
Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD, said: “Many employers may have a greater arsenal of support available for this group of employees than they realise, due to the wide and ever-growing range of choice within mainstream employee benefits. Employers would be wise to lean on their employee benefits consultants for advice in understanding exactly what they have in place across multiple benefits to support those employees who are suddenly in ill health.”
Employee benefits consultants also have a vital role in helping employers avoid unnecessary duplication of support types according to GRiD. For example, several products used by an employer may all contain different Employee Assistance Programmes.
Where duplication is unavoidable, the consultant can help the employer determine which product or products offer the most comprehensive support in different employee circumstances, and to utilise that one/those.
Offering diverse support
Offering diverse help is also key when offering support to staff because it is virtually impossible to predict what illness, injury or disability may arise, or what the most appropriate type of support and course of treatment each individual will require. And while it is possible for employers to source wide-ranging support on a pay-as-you-go basis: over a long period, this can be costly and time-consuming.
In addition, many employee benefits include access to prevention and early intervention support, so they aim to address many staff issues before they become a problem.
Adaptations to current working practises are often necessary during times of employee ill health in order to help staff remain in work or return to work. Employers will find that many employee benefits also support the employer in understanding how to make these changes effective for both the individual and the organisation.
Moxham concluded: “We know employers want to do their best for their staff at times of ill health and we also know that many purchase employee benefits in good faith to support their employees for exactly this purpose. However, it’s quite possible that many are sitting on an untapped treasure chest of support that their employees could access if employers took a little more time to get a better understanding of exactly what it is that they’ve bought.
“Every employer should and will take cost into consideration when purchasing employee benefits, but by understanding the depth and breadth of that support, they’ll also be able to determine the inherent value too. That value may be measured in terms of employee outcomes such as recovery time and positive engagement with the workplace but also in terms of benefits for the business itself such as employee productivity and absence reduction.”