Sickness absence is severely impacting UK business – yet take up of key protection benefits is low

Long-term sickness absence is a serious issue with over two-fifths (44%) of UK SMEs reporting at least one employee absent for four weeks or more in the last twelve months, according to research from leading employee benefits provider, Unum.

The majority of SME bosses also said that long-term sickness (absence 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 the business impact of long-term absence and the employer’s desire to help employees back to work, another recent study by Unum and the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC), found uptake of core protection benefits to be very low.

According to the Unum and BCC study, only 8% of UK businesses surveyed offered income protection, one of the core products to help businesses and their employees through sickness absence with financial assistance and rehabilitation support. 22% surveyed said they offered Life Insurance, just 9% offered Critical Illness Insurance, while 22% said that they provide nothing at all in the form of financial protection benefits.

Alongside financial protection and rehabilitation support, fast access to early clinical help can be invaluable to employers and their employees. With that in mind, Unum has launched a new easy to use app ‘[email protected]’ as part of its Group Income Protection product to give employees and their families fast access to remote GPs, second medical opinions, physiotherapy and mental health services.

Peter O’Donnell, Chief Executive Officer, Unum UK, said: 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. At Unum, we want to help businesses of all sizes put in place the necessary services and products to enable them to manage this effectively.

“As evidenced in the recent Government consultation – ‘Health is everyone’s business’ – the government is also placing greater importance on the role of employers in keeping people in work. 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.”

About Unum

Unum is a leading employee benefits provider offering financial protection through the workplace including: Income Protection, Life insurance, Critical Illness, and Dental cover.

Our Income Protection customers have access to medical and vocational rehabilitation expertise designed to help people stay in work and return to work following illness and injury.

Unum LifeWorks, our Employee Assistance Programme, provides help and advice on a range of work/life issues.

Our Critical Illness customers can access our Cancer Support Service, providing personalised support for employees with a cancer diagnosis.

We are committed to workplace wellbeing for both employees and employers. We have a wide range of tools designed to help businesses create or enhance their employee wellbeing strategy, including our Mental Health Pathway and Wellbeing Calendar.

At the end of 2018, Unum protected 1.4 million people in the UK and paid claims of £314 million – representing in excess of £6 million a week in benefits to our customers – providing security and peace of mind to individuals and their families.

Our parent company, Unum Group, is a provider of employee benefits products and services in the United States, including group and individual disability insurance. Premium income for Unum Group and its subsidiaries totalled $9.0bn in the year ended 31 December 2018, with reported revenues for the group totalling $11.6bn and total assets of $61.9bn.

A.M Best has given all rated Unum Group companies an Excellent rating for Financial Strength, with a stable outlook.

For more information please visit http://www.unum.co.uk.

Unum Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Unum Dental is a trading name of Unum Limited. Registered in England 983768.

About the British Chambers of Commerce

The British Chambers of Commerce surveyed 1,000 business leaders online between 29 April and 16 May 2019. Around 91% of participants were SMEs.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) sits at the heart of a powerful network of 53 Accredited Chambers of Commerce across the UK, representing thousands of businesses of all sizes and within all sectors. Our Global Business Network connects exporters with over 50 markets around the world. For more information, visit: www.britishchambers.org.uk

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