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Zurich research suggests one in five British businesses lack expertise to manage sickness absence

January 31, 2019

Zurich research suggests one in five British businesses lack expertise to manage sickness absence

More than one in five British businesses surveyed (22%) lack the expertise to manage sickness absence effectively, according to YouGov research published today by insurer Zurich .   The study among financial decision makers in British companies examined the main risks facing them.  The findings suggest many could be leaving themselves exposed to losing skilled staff and lost productivity through extended and unmanaged sickness absence.

When looking at different sized companies surveyed, those working for medium sized businesses (50 – 249 employees) were over twice as likely (29%) to admit they don’t feel they have the right skills to manage their employee’s ill health effectively, compared to 14% of larger firms and 22% of small businesses. This is despite the fact that employee absence is estimated to cost the UK economy around £18bn per year in terms of lost productivity  

When asked how many respondents provided Group Income Protection for their employees, just 15% said that they do overall with larger businesses nearly twice as likely to do so compared to those medium sized 45% v 23%.  Just 8% of smaller enterprises (with less than 50 employees) offer this benefit– despite being most vulnerable to the effects of staff absence. 

Commenting on the findings, Nick Homer, Zurich’s head of market management for group risk said: “The findings particularly highlight the vulnerability of smaller businesses and their employees. Group income protection can help businesses operate more effectively by providing both financial support and access to expertise to aid the recovery of employees suffering from an illness or injury. 

“We know from experience that absent employees who have access to support via their workplace group income protection arrangement return to work more successfully and quicker than those who don’t, with many having benefitted from specialist support and treatment that they may struggle to access via the NHS.”

Interestingly, when respondents were asked how much they thought group income protection would cost per year as a percentage of annual salary roll, over 40% had no idea while 21% thought this would equate to over 3%.  In reality however, the cost is closer to 1% of annual payroll.

Nick Homer added, “As providers, it’s important that we communicate all of the benefits of group income protection policies.  This includes the rehabilitation support that we provide which can be vital in helping employers retain valuable staff.”


[1] Yougov online research during March 2018 – 423 respondents financial decision makers omnibus - British businesses

[1]Analysis from Centre of Economic and Business Research 2018