One in three employers don’t offer support to help long-term absent employees return to work, according to new research.
Group Risk Development (Grid) says that 31 per cent of employers do not make early intervention services available to help staff return to work, if they are absent for six months or more. Similarly 32 per cent of employers don’t have any financial support in place for staff if they are absent for this period of time.
Of those employers that do not offer return-to-work interventions for employees, over half (52 per cent) said they can’t afford it, and a third (32 per cent) believe it is not their responsibility.
Similar reasons were cited when employers were questioned about why they don’t offer financial support. Over half (58 per cent) of those employers who don’t offer financial support, claim they can’t afford to do so and a third (30 per cent) believe it is not their responsibility.
Of the employers who do offer early interventions to support a return to work for long-term absent employees, 50 per cent provide this for all staff – 40 per cent via insurance and 10 per cent by self-funding.
Of those employers who do offer return-to-work interventions, the most common types are:
- Emotional support, such as counselling (46 per cent)
- Graded return-to-work plans (43 per cent)
- Practical support such as access to a rehabilitation specialist (39 per cent)
- Line manager training (34 per cent)
- Access to medical specialists such as oncologists (31 per cent)
- Access to a second medical opinion (28 per cent)
- Pay for treatment (27 per cent)
- Physio (24 per cent)
Grid spokesperson Katharine Moxham points out that while employers are not currently contractually obliged to offer early intervention services, there is growing political pressure for employers to do more.
The government’s recent “Health is everyone’s business” consultation stated: “Employers have an important role to play in creating workplaces in which employees with health conditions can stay and thrive in work. Employers are well placed to provide support to their employees. The right support from an employer or line manager is key to helping people with health conditions remain in work, or supporting people to return to work after a period of sickness absence.”
Figures from Department of Work & Pensions and Department of Health & Social Care show 100,000 people leave work following a spell of long-term sickness absence each year. Therefore, employers should be wary that a failure to rehabilitate employees back into the workplace could equate to a burgeoning recruitment bill.
Moxham says: “The longer a member of staff is absent from work, the greater likelihood that they will not return to work following their absence. Not only is this costly for the employer but it is also hugely disruptive as the employer cannot accurately plan ahead to replace the employee and for the resources needed to recruit and train a new member of staff.”
She adds: “Absent employees who are not supported by their employer, are likely to very quickly start to feel detached from work, and that creates hurdles which can loom large and prevent a return to work. Support is available, via group risk policies, and we would encourage businesses to investigate such support. We think they’d be pleasantly surprised at not just how comprehensive the range is, but that it’s very likely to be cheaper than funding support on an individual, ad-hoc basis.”