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26 Jan 2022
by Tim Brook

Physical health: 3 ways to better support employees diagnosed with a chronic illness

Most of these conditions are managed via the NHS. However, employer focus on such illnesses may have to be redefined should the Covid-19 pandemic prompt a new wave of diagnoses.



Most of these conditions are managed via the NHS. However, employer focus on such illnesses may have to be redefined should the Covid-19 pandemic prompt a new wave of diagnoses.

Bruce Eaton, director at medical checking and diagnosis specialist MediPartner, said: “At this time, it is not fully understood how Covid-19 may impact these numbers, but there is commentary that individuals who have had it may be diagnosed with new health conditions as a consequence.”

The case for offering chronic illness support

For employers, chronic conditions can have a big negative impact on both workplace attendance and employee performance.

Providing help and support at the point of diagnosis can help to mitigate these issues both short- and long-term, as being able to continue to engage in meaningful work is beneficial to the individual’s rehabilitation and overall wellbeing – as well as to the business.

“Support during the early stages of formal diagnosis is key to enabling employees with chronic illness to stay in the workplace,” said Rachel Roebuck, clinical director at EAP provider Innovate Healthcare.

The good news is that there’s lots of great support available. The bad news is that this is of little help if people don’t know about it or are confused by having access to several similar services.

So, here’s a quick checklist to help you choose the right solution.

1. Do you have a chronic illness issue?

As employee benefit schemes do not typically cover chronic conditions, the biggest associated cost to employers is often long-term absenteeism.

To understand the extent to which chronic conditions affect your workforce, it can therefore be helpful to review any data you have on workplace absences.

2. Do your providers support chronic illnesses?

Few workplace PMI policies cover chronic illnesses, especially if they’re pre-existing. And increasing the coverage of these policies to benefit the minority of employees who need this treatment could prove very expensive.

“Swiftly constructed enhancements to PMI and other such benefits could become a costly fool’s errand,” Eaton said. Instead, he recommends providing cost-effective benefits that are accessible to all, such as:

  • Flexibility for attendance at NHS check-ups and appointments.
  • Employment policies to support the above, if required.
  • Holistic wellbeing support, including regular health checks.

3. How can I ensure colleagues are aware of the support available?

One of the easiest ways to ensure employees dealing with chronic illness diagnoses know where to get help is to develop a central reward hub that blends information, education, tools, services, and benefits.

“A well-publicised health and wellbeing solution that employees feel able to engage with because of the organisation’s positive attitude towards employees with chronic conditions is key,” Roebuck added.

“As is ensuring that training is provided to line managers on handling employee health concerns.”

The case for prioritising prevention

Offering support to employees who develop chronic illnesses is good, but helping them to avoid such life-changing diagnoses is better.

It’s not always easy to persuade people to make big lifestyle changes, but there are a number of steps you can take to reduce the prevalence of chronic illnesses in your future workforce.

These include:

  • Offering regular health and wellbeing checks.
  • Encouraging employees to develop and implement one, three, and five-year wellbeing plans.
  • Running on-site advice sessions with health trainers.
  • Providing health screening services (especially for cardiac/metabolic diseases).

Promoting good health and wellbeing now may well prove the best way to protect your employees – and your bottom line – in the years to come.

Author is Tim Brook, head of engagement and platforms at EQ HR Solutions.

This article is supplied by EQ HR Solutions.

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