Paid long-term sickness absence rated top health benefit by employees

Paid long-term sick leave is the most desirable health-related employee benefit, according to a survey.

Financial and insurance-related health benefits are overwhelmingly more popular than those related to ‘preventative measures’ such as gym membership, weight loss support, flu vaccination or counselling, the study of more 1,200 employees by Aon Consulting found.

Alex Bennett, head of healthcare consulting at the pensions consultancy firm, said: “At a time when workers are worried about their financial futures, it is no surprise that rather than concentrate on staying healthy they focus on how they are going to manage in the event that they do become sick.”

Preferences to health benefits varied according to age, the survey also found. Healthcare and insurance have greater appeal to older workers with 80% of those aged over 55 rating critical illness insurance as highly desirable and desirable. Private medical insurance (72%), health screening (77%), healthcare cash plans (67%) and the provision of occupational health services (62%) were also important to the older age group.

Meanwhile workers under 35 had a stronger preference for subsidised gym membership (55%) and counselling (34%).

Bennett said employers should do more to both improve and capture the return on investment of these benefits if they expect business to fund them. This should be coupled with promoting wellness to improve productivity, he said.

In January, the European Court of Justice ruled that employees were entitled to accrue holiday pay while on sick leave and could carry that leave over into another year if they were too ill to take it.

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