A new 360 degree study of UK businesses and their employees suggests that the majority of UK employees (78%) would be prepared to jeopardise their long term health by returning to work from sickness absence before they’re 100% fit. By contrast, just 22% said they would never be prepared to sacrifice their health in order to get back to the office quickly.
The “early intervention prevention” report from Aviva UK Health also pinpoints money worries as the root cause for this damaging trend. 49% of those questioned said they’d come back to their desk early if they thought their family couldn’t cope financially while a further 11% claimed that fear of losing their job would hasten their return to work.
Kevin Murdoch, Senior proposition development manager at Aviva UK Health comments:
“Long term sickness can have a major impact on an individual and their family. And in fact, the knock on effects in terms of increased stress and financial worries can at times be as hard to cope with as the actual condition itself – particularly if a bread winner is affected. The disturbing findings in our survey highlight just how poorly equipped to survive a period of long term absence many of us are and how this can lead us to make decisions we might live to regret.”
The survey also reveals that eight out of ten employees (79%) felt they couldn’t get by on less than half salary. In reality, just 40% of employers surveyed offered this level of financial support to those on long term sick leave.
As separate research from Aviva recently showed that without further borrowing, the average British household could get their hands on just Ã‚Â£914 of disposable cash – less than two weeks of the average weekly household expenditure of Ã‚Â£471 – it’s no wonder that many feel under impossible pressure2.
The irony is that by taking out Income Protection – which pays a regular tax free income should you be unable to work due to illness or accidental injury – families could easily be spared from many of the hardships of long term absence. As well as a regular injection of funds, customers could get access to a wide range of rehabilitation support including counselling services such as cognitive behavioural therapy, physiotherapy, occupational health and advice on improving workplace accessibility to supports their timely return to work. Yet despite modest premiums, uptake among UK households is still relatively low. Industry figures suggest an income protection gap of Ã‚Â£190 billion and the gap is still increasing3. “
Kevin Murdoch continues: “While the Government’s newly introduced “fit notes” initiative aims to encourage a prompt return to work, nobody would wish them to come back before they’re 100% fit and able. Returning to work prematurely from an illness or injury without the appropriate support could be detrimental to the health of an employee and from a business perspective employers will reap few benefits from such “presenteeism” – a lose, lose situation. But, without adequate funds, some breadwinners will inevitably take drastic action in order to keep afloat.
“Health is the most precious gift and we abuse it at our peril. Yet that’s exactly what the majority of employees questioned in our survey claim to be prepared to do if illness or injury threatens their family’s livelihood. We urge people to take steps to protect themselves if they are unable to work as a result of illness or injury. Aviva’s Income Protection Solutions for example, helps take the pressure off finances and enables you to concentrate on your health and hopefully a speedier recovery. Surely this is a worthwhile investment.” He concludes.
Few of us like to think that we might lose our income through illness or injury. However, it can and does happen. Last year, there were over 2.4 million people aged between 18-64 claiming incapacity benefit4. Of those, over 80% were claiming for more than 6 months and 40% claiming for more than 5 years. So it pays to plan for this eventuality. Income Protection plans from providers like Aviva can cover you for illness or injury for around the cost of a monthly take-away for two.