Employers Must Do More To Support Staff With Serious Illnesses

Quarter of employers fail to provide support to staff with serious illnesses – GRiD

Nearly a quarter (23%) of UK businesses do not offer any form of emotional or practical support to employees if they are diagnosed with a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease. That is one of the main findings from new research by GRiD, the group risk sector industry body.

Of those organisations that do offer employees support when dealing with a serious illness, the most prevalent types of provision are a phased return to work plan (43%) and emotional support, such as counselling (42%). Other common forms of support offered include: 

  • Practical support, such as access to rehabilitation (35%)
  • Line manager training (28%)
  • Access to medical specialists, such as oncologists (27%)
  • Access to a second medical opinion (23%)
  • Employer-funded treatment (21%)
  • Physiotherapy (17%)

According to GRiD’s research, which was undertaken during January 2020 by Opinium and garnered the opinions of 500 HR decision makers and 1,165 UK employees, a disconnect exists between what support employees think they’ll get when dealing with a serious illness and what support their employer actually offers.

When asked what support they would receive from their employer if they were diagnosed with a serious illness, only 7% of employees said they thought they would get access to counselling and just 3% said physiotherapy. This reality suggests that employees are not fully aware of the support they would receive if they were diagnosed with a serious illness, further emphasising the need for effective employer communication.

Serious illnesses aren’t uncommon in the UK

Sadly, serious illnesses aren’t uncommon in the UK. According to the British Heart Foundation, around 7.4 million people are living with heart and circulatory disease in the UK. Furthermore, 1.4 million people have survived a heart attack, while over 900,000 are living with heart failure. 

Arguably one of the hardest parts for these individuals is that life doesn’t suddenly return to normal. Many require support on many levels — such as getting a second medical opinion, accessing treatment, specialists and consultants, rehabilitation, physiotherapy or counselling — for a significant period of time.

Speaking about the research, Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD, said: “Serious and critical illnesses are often unforeseen, and that can make them difficult to prepare for. But, unfortunately, they’re not uncommon, so it’s important that employers consider this aspect when putting together their health and wellbeing programmes.”

Supporting Employee Health

Employees are an organisation’s most valuable asset, which is why safeguarding their health and providing support when they need it the most should be at the top of every company’s agenda.

By supporting employees’ health — especially when they face serious illnesses — business will not only show how much they care, but also boost the chances of these employees returning to work sooner than they perhaps would have.