Employers withhold information on sickness benefits policies from staff

UK employers have been found to routinely keep important details of their benefits package under wraps from staff, according to new research from Group Risk Development (GRiD), the trade organisation for the Group Risk industry.

According to GRiD's research of 500 employers, 25% do not communicate sickness benefits to staff and, while 5% do not offer anything, they are not sure if staff know this.

Alongside meeting contractual obligations and ensuring business continuity, recruiting and motivating employees is seen as the prime reason for implementing a benefits package.

When asked to elaborate, 8% of businesses questioned had a policy in place but preferred to maintain secrecy about the details and 12% said they treated each case on its own merits.

Whereas pensions and private medical insurance feature prominently in job specs, sickness provision like cover under a Group Income Protection (GIP) policy often falls under the radar as it's taboo for employees to raise the subject of sick leave - particularly during the recruitment process. In addition, from the employers' perspective, sometimes benefits like GIP are put in place primarily to support business continuity so employers may not see the reason for communicating on this issue.  

Katharine Moxham, a spokeswoman from GRiD, said: "Far from encouraging absence, the whole premise of a modern Group Income Protection (GIP) policy is on stepping in early to minimise absence and provide the support needed to get employees back to work in a timely manner. It's for this reason that GIP is increasingly seen as a tool to enable employers to meet contractual obligations to rehabilitate employees with cover for absence seen as a bolt-on benefit. But best results are achieved where there's an open and trusting partnership between an employer and their workforce.

"By keeping details of benefits such as GIP under wraps, employers are missing a powerful opportunity to motivate personnel and foster self-reliance. As best practice, employers should provide employees with information on company policy in the event of employee absence. We would also recommend communicating the existence of the rehabilitation support that comes with most GIP insurance policies.

"I take great solace from the fact that GRiD employer research also reveals that 14% of employers now issue a Total Reward Statement - a document summarising the value of all benefits, tangible or otherwise - to boost team morale. Additionally, employers who have Group Risk benefits in place cite employee demand, improvements in morale and productivity and getting staff back to work quicker as reasons for doing so. Proof positive that open communication is the best policy."