Absence costs the UK economy around £18bn a year

Employee risk, including absence and health, has ranked as only the sixth concern among British businesses.

The poll of 500 financial decision makers from Zurich found just 25% highlighted it their most pressing concern, despite employee absence costing the UK economy around £18bn a year in terms of lost productivity.

Economic uncertainty ranked first, with 43% of respondents highlighting it as a major risk.

Technological risk, including cyber and data security, ranked second (39%), followed by financial risk and competitor activity (both 33%).

Reputational risk was a major concern for 32% of respondents.

Employee risk ranked far more highly among larger employers, with 40% seeing it as a major problem, compared to just 22% of smaller organisations.

When asked about the single biggest impact of employee sickness on their businesses, loss of productivity came out highest for just under a third (32%), followed by 23% who said it caused a strain on management time, and 17% who said the loss of expertise from their business was their biggest concern.

Just 15% of respondents said they provided group income protection for their employees.

Nearly half (45%) of large businesses compared to 23% of medium and only 8% of small businesses provide this benefit.

Nick Homer, head of market management, corporate risk at Zurich, said the fact that larger employers rank employee risk more highly would suggest that they have experienced at first hand the impact of losing an employee to long term illness or injury.

“While the benefits to employees are clear – both replacement income and rehabilitation support – there are clear benefits to employers, including business continuity and retaining critical skills and expertise,” he added.

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