Most staff need specialist help when returning to work from illness

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Nearly three-quarters of staff who are absent from work require adjustments to their workplace to return to employment successfully, an analysis of government statistics has concluded.

Insurer Legal & General crunched statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions’ Fit for Work Service pilots.

It found that half of those who returned to work with support from the service reported changed hours of work, while two-fifths also reported changed duties and reduced workloads. The findings also indicated that ­returning to work from illness usually requires specialist adjustments and support.

Diane Buckley, managing director of Legal & General Group Protection, said: “Returning people to the workplace is much easier with the right support in place. Employees were of the opinion that, with the right adjustments, they can return more quickly.”

The company has also highlighted the importance within this context for employers of investing in group income protection (GIP) schemes. These provide specialist support and early intervention when an employee becomes unwell, helping them return to work sooner.

GIP schemes are expected to become more important, too, after Government changes to employment and support allowance (ESA), which will limit individuals’ reliance on the state to support them if they are off work long term, consultancy Mercer has predicted.

GIP costs are likely to increase as a result, as employees rely more heavily on company benefits.

The ESA incapacity replaced income support benefits in 2008 and before April 2012 there was no time limit on those receiving ESA or incapacity benefits, providing they were eligible.

However, there is now a 365-day limit on the payment of contributory ESA to those in the “work-­related activity group”, who have some limited capability to work.

John Cowell, partner at Mercer Marsh Benefits, said: “Employers are seeing that the state is no longer going to bear the burden of sup­porting individuals in times of ­illness or incapacity.

“The implication of these ­changes is that the cost for GIP policies that offset state benefits is likely to increase because ESA will be paid less often and also at lower amounts.”

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