More than two-fifths of firms have had employees long-term absent due to ill health

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.

The overriding impacts of staff absences are operational (88%) and on staff morale (76%) according to the results of the survey from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and Unum of over 1,000 businesses of all sizes and across all sectors. The business-to-consumer sector, which includes retail, catering, and hotels, was more likely to report impacts 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.

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.

BCC and Unum comment that 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 consulting on proposals to prevent health-related job loss which will require businesses to take a more proactive role.