shutterstock 531570082 - Health Benefits: Illness And Its Impact On Business

That the world of business moves quickly is surely not in doubt.

Anyone requiring any proof need not cast their minds back decades.

Just three years ago, the nation was subject to the first phase of lockdown in an effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Even so, whilst the pandemic has cost more than 222,000 lives in the UK alone, the country seems to have rapidly returned to normality since the last restrictions were removed in March last year.

Having said that, there there are number of impacts arising from the world’s experience of coronavirus which look like being with us for some time to come.

Arguably the most obvious is the shift in where and how we work.

Data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in February revealed that just under half the working population are now either based permanently at home or split their time between their homes and offices.

Another consequence of Covid-19 has been the more noticeable effect which illness has on the workplace.

Yet more research, issued in November, revealed that there are now more than 2.5 people classed as suffering from long-term sickness – the highest such figure since 2010.

That number has risen by half a million since 2019 with most of that increase – 363,000 – coming since the pandemic.

It has identified a number of factors as to why that should be the case. They include longer NHS waiting times, a steadily ageing workforce and particular increases among younger employees and in certain business sectors such as wholesale and retail.

In all, says the ONS, just over 149 million working days were lost to illness or injury in 2021 – equivalent to 4.6 days per worker.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has provided even more clarity when it comes to those issues arising from the workplace itself.

Its latest annual report outlined how 30.8 million days were lost to “work-related” incidents or illness during the last full financial year.

More than half of the total of 1.8 million individual cases featured men or women presenting with mental health problems, such as work-related stress, depression or anxiety.

Poor health can have very pronounced and horrid consequences for the individuals concerned. Long-standing conditions can limit someone’s career prospects and earning potential.

However, it can also impede the chances of commercial success for the organisations for which they work.

The vast majority of businesses in the UK are small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Statistics collated by the House of Commons’ Library concluded that 95 per cent of the 5.5 million trading companies last year had fewer than 10 employees. Nevertheless, they were responsible for generating a combined turnover of £808 billion – close to one-fifth of the entire sales racked up by the private sector.

Smaller businesses do not only have to cope with the loss of personnel to illness or injury but to a possible rival.

In recent years, employee ‘churn’ has been on the increase and is set to increase still further during the rest of 2023.

It will perhaps, therefore, come as little surprise that employers are seeking to tackle both the issue of staff recruitment or retention and illness at the same time.

The global management consultancy McKinsey has noted that many employers view health benefits as an important tool in their development.

That research bears out our own work with clients, suggesting that health insurance is viewed as a key consideration in whether employees join or stay with companies.

Such provision can help underline that a company has the kind of professional and supporting environment in which staff can prosper.

The need to place a greater premium on employee well-being has been recognised by HR departments since the pandemic.

For businesses which do care about their futures and those of the people who work for and with them, these things really matter.

Daniel Lloyd John0002 - Health Benefits: Illness And Its Impact On Business


Written by Daniel Lloyd-John, Chief Executive, Broadway Insurance Brokers