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HR News Update – Employers face a protection gap around long-term sick pay

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More than three-quarters of UK staff cannot afford to maintain a living on statutory sick pay, research has revealed. Seventy-seven percent of those questioned in the study conducted by employee healthcare and risk specialist PMI Health Group claimed they wouldn't be able to live on just statutory sick pay if their income stopped tomorrow.

At the same time, 46 percent said their employers do not continue to pay their salary in full if they are off work for three months or more through sickness or injury.

“The study highlights a protection gap in the UK, as half of all workers do not have a sufficient level of protection in the event of long-term illness,” said Mike Blake, Director, PMI Health Group. The big question is how much should they expect the employer to cover them? There is an opportunity for companies to position themselves as responsible, desirable employers by offering their staff extra cover.

Income protection, for example, can be tied into the contract of employment to ensure staff are guaranteed financial stability. The policy will usually kick in after six months and it is down to the insurer, rather than the employer, to make a judgment on when staff are ready to return to work, ensuring everyone is judged on the same grounds.” The results of the study follow a recent change in legislation, which means employers are no longer able to claim back any statutory sick pay that has been paid to staff.

Companies are only able to reclaim statutory sick pay under certain circumstances, such as when a high proportion of your employees were off sick at the same time. “Now that the employer can't claim back the cost of statutory sick pay, it's another cost they have to swallow,” added Mike. “Consequently, more companies may look to transfer the risk to the insurer so they have a certainty over what absence will cost them each year. This, in turn, could see a rise in policies such as sick pay insurance, which allows the employer to insure anything from the statutory amount to full salary. Although the employer will still foot the bill for sick pay, they are provided with certainty over what absence will cost each year.”

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