Employers are underestimating the likelihood of a serious issue affecting their staff in the next 12 months.
That is the finding of new research undertaken by the industry body for the group risk protection sector, Group Risk Development (GRiD). The study found that, despite nearly four in five (78%) human resources professionals at larger employers having supported a member of staff at their current workplace through bereavement, their prediction of needing to do the same in the forthcoming 12 months is lower at 65%.
Similarly, 76% of HRs at larger companies have dealt with an employee being absent for six months or longer, but the perceived likelihood of doing this again in the next 12 months is only 60%, 16 percentage points lower.
The study also suggest that further gaps in perception versus reality exist when HRs consider dealing with staff with mental health problems; dealing with staff who have been diagnosed with a serious illness such as cancer or stroke; and also in dealing with the death of an employee.
The report highlighted statistics that demonstrate the actual likelihood of employees being affected by serious issues. These include Macmillan’s figures showing that 125,000 people of working age are diagnosed with cancer every year; Mind’s figures suggesting 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year; and ONS data revealing 16% of people who died in 2017 were of working age.
“Statistics clearly show the likelihood of employees being affected by serious issues,” GRiD spokesperson Katharine Moxham said. “Furthermore, employers need to realise that just because they’ve dealt with a serious incident with one employee, it unfortunately does not mean that they are in some way immune from it happening again.
“Indeed, larger organisations, and those with a specific demographic bias, may find themselves repeatedly dealing with a similar scenario for individuals within their workforce,” she noted.
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GRiD also warns that each serious scenario should not be viewed in isolation, as clearly some are interlinked: for instance, a serious illness, long-term illness, or death of a loved one or colleague can lead to a mental health issue.
“Of course true support for employees needs to go beyond that individual member of staff and extend to their family too,” Moxham explained. “These serious issues have a wide impact on partners and dependants, and the individual member of staff will only be fully supported and get true peace of mind if they know their family is looked after as well.”
GRiD said group risk products, including employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness, can give employers the means of throwing their staff a financial lifeline following a life-changing event. They often also include a number of added-value services, such as access to Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP), bereavement support, fast access to counselling, vocational rehabilitation and even support for improving health & wellbeing.
“This support can be highly valued by the employee, but can also benefit the business in supporting people returning to work,” GRiD added.