By Owain Thomas

Source: Workplace Savings and Benefits
A large majority of employers feel ill-equipped to help staff return to work after illness while a significant minority are calling for auto-enrolment into group risk schemes, new research finds.

The Aviva survey revealed that just one in five (20%) organizations felt equipped to offer their employees rehabilitation support following long-term illness.

Nearly a quarter (22%) said they do not have the resource or expertise to manage people back into the workplace effectively and a similar number (25%) worried that they would have to carry on paying sick pay.

The survey of 500 employers also highlighted confusion about new state benefits and fears that introducing measures to respond to this could adversely affect workers.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63%) admitted they did not know how much benefit is paid through Employment and Support Allowance while nearly three quarters (72%), didn’t know that people in the work related activity group could find their entitlement to ESA could stop after a year.

Just one in ten (11%) employers had reviewed their sick-pay arrangements following the welfare reform changes.

When the situation was explained, over a third (38%) of employers felt it would be a good idea to have a different approach for different conditions.

However, a quarter (24%) recognized the potential impact this could have on their workforce, noting that they would worry that employees would be forced back into work when they are not well enough to do so.

One in five (22%) also felt that it would be very difficult to have the correct measures in place to decide whether a person is fit for work.

In response to these problems, a significant minority (43%) said they thought employees should be auto-enrolled onto a scheme that gives them financial protection in the event of long-term sickness absence.

And around one in five (17%) added that they were already considering taking out group income protection.

Aviva head of group risk Steve Bridger said: “There is a concerning lack of awareness amongst employers about the State benefits relating to illness or injury.

“However, we’re encouraged to see that employers recognize the benefit of auto-enrolling employees onto a scheme that gives them financial protection if they are unable to work due to long-term illness and aids rehabilitation.”