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25 Jan 2022

5 ways to use employee benefits to support employees suffering chronic illness

For many employers, supporting employees with chronic conditions is a matter of listening to their needs and providing support in a pragmatic way

Around 12.8 million (31%) of working age people in the UK have a long-term health condition, according to UK government figures. People of all ages can suffer long-term illness and chronic diseases are becoming more prevalent across generations.

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That’s potentially one of three of your employees dealing with a chronic condition. It’s an enormous talent pool. By supporting employees with long-term medical conditions, employers can help minimise loss of skills, improve productivity, retain more talent and help their people thrive in work and in life.

So which employee benefits are most useful in managing chronic illness?

Truly flexible work arrangements can help both the employee and their organisation - allowing the employee to prioritise their health while causing minimal disruption to business as usual.

Common arrangements include additional breaks to eat, rest, or take life-sustaining medication. Employers may also offer reduced or condensed hours, working from home, or a change in role or location. Finally, flexibility is key when implementing a return to work plan after an employee has taken sick leave.

2. Listening to employees

Employees know their workplace capabilities best. It is important to consider their suggestions and move towards a solution that works for everyone.

Scheduling regular check-ins with line managers is a good idea – both on how the employee is managing with their condition and their general wellbeing. Liaising with occupational health professionals can help ensure a supportive work environment too.

3. Employee wellbeing

As well as medical treatment, employees with chronic conditions may benefit from preventive wellness services, such as access to physical therapy, exercise classes and health screening.

Mental health services are also part of the wellbeing package. People with long-term physical health issues often suffer from mental health conditions as well and would value support to help them cope.

You can help by providing flexible support; for example an EAP helpline. Employees can access the EAP confidentially, via their own device, in the privacy of their home – or indeed anywhere they feel comfortable. EAPs advise on a huge range of complex issues, and many also offer access to counselling sessions.

4. On-demand GP

We all know that finding the time to speak to a doctor can be difficult, with extended waiting times and unhelpful surgery opening hours. Giving staff access to on-demand GP appointments means that staff can speak to a medical professional via telephone or video consultation, 24 hours a day and often within a few hours of their request. 

As well as providing reassurance on minor problems, online GP appointments can help employees manage long-term health conditions, preventing extended sickness leave. And it’s available for the employee’s family too, which can be helpful for reducing short-term absences when parents need to care for a sick child. 

5. Employee health insurance

Private health insurance often tops lists of UK employees’ most wanted benefits. It’s reassuring to know that your employer will help pay for swift medical care should you need it. But many policies exclude pre-existing conditions so don’t necessarily help manage chronic illness at work.

Plus, it’s not a benefit offered in all jobs. Some companies face a dilemma: they want to keep workers safe and productive, but a limited benefits budget means they are unable to provide cover for ill health.

For these employers, the best solution may be to partner with an insurer that can provide workers with easy access to cost-effective, individual policies. Employees also value the chance to safeguard themselves from the impact of illness on their earnings. 

Most employees don’t want to take time off because they’re chronically ill. With reasonable adjustments, they can continue to enjoy rewarding work. 

However, many chronic health conditions are ‘invisible illnesses’ which can, in the wrong work environment, raise unfounded questions about a person’s ability to work.

For many employers, supporting employees with chronic conditions is a matter of listening to their needs and providing support in a pragmatic way. Employee benefits are a valuable tool to help employees manage their health while protecting productivity. 

This article was supplied by Personal Group

In partnership with Personal Group

Personal Group provides the latest employee benefits and wellbeing products.

Contact us today

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