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21 Jun 2024
by Adrian Matthews

Can preventative benefits reduce the trend in rising employee absences?

Research shows there is demand for high quality benefits among those in work and those wanting to return

Can preventative benefits arrest the trend in rising employee absences?.jpg


The UK economy, having been stagnant for the last two years, is finally showing green shoots of recovery with stronger-than-expected economic growth seen at the start of 2024 – according to an independent thinktank.

While there is cause for optimism, it is still early days and concerns linger over employee retention and productivity. Indeed the current employment landscape doesn’t make for the most positive of pictures.  

The latest figures on the UK jobs market from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) indicate early signs of it stalling. This is due to the number of people out of work rising to 4.2%, the rate of people with a job dipping and the economically inactive (those not in work or actively looking for employment) ticking higher. 

Fallout from pandemic continues to weigh

The most recent update from the ONS reports there are now over 2.5 million people who give long-term sickness as their main reason for not being able to work. A major contributor to this being the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, with the overall long-term sickness absence volume rising by over 400,000 and cases of ‘depression, bad nerves or anxiety’ impacting and hindering over five million people from returning to the world of work.

Tony Wilson, director at the Institute for Employment Studies, warned in a BBC report that the absence of skill from the workforce will start to take its toll on productivity.

This may start to impact long-term growth due to “firms not meeting demand because if they can’t fill jobs, it might mean they have to pay people more to fill those jobs or... close their business down because they can't cope. It impacts overall productivity and might also mean less competition."

In the UK, the standard rate of employee absence is 7.8 days per employee per year, according to the CIPD's Health and Wellbeing at Work 2023 report. This is the highest rate in a decade. According to the CIPD report, this costs business an average of £1.75 million for an organisation with 1,000-employees, when considering temporary employees, admin, lost productivity, recruitment and training, demonstrating the importance of protection products being in place for a workforce.

Getting back to work is high on election agenda

What does this mean for employers wanting to shore up their businesses in a cost-conscious climate? And, perhaps more importantly, how can they get their people teams in the best position possible for future success?

Getting people back to work is very likely to be high on the political agenda in the run-up to the general election next month. It is vital, however, that businesses start acting now to ensure people remain and feel fully supported in their return to work.

Here, we look at three core pillars employers  should consider when it comes to improving employee retention and preventing of long-term sickness absence: 

1. Spend time to understand the unique challenges your employees are facing, and what you can do to help provide greater purpose and meaning to improve engagement.

2. Provide that much-needed stability to your employees by offering high quality workplace benefits to ensure they feel confident in the face of future challenges.

3. When doing this, recognise rising costs by offering affordable support for employees (and their families) in sickness, and preventative tools to reduce future absence.

The value placed on employee benefits is undeniable – particularly in the current job market. In research conducted by Censuswide on behalf of MetLife UK among 2,009 employees in January 2024, there was real demand for high quality workplace benefits. Two out of five UK employees said they would choose a job with a lower salary, if it guaranteed generous employee benefits, such as income protection, death in service and hybrid working. About a third (34%) would also like to see mental health support and wellness packages.  

In partnership with MetLife

At MetLife our aim is to help businesses prepare for the future, perform at their best and protect their people.

Contact us today