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Long-term absence erodes morale of employees left at work, according to Aviva

Long-term absence is not only an issue for over two-thirds of employers - it can also have a major impact on their staff.

In a survey conducted to identify both employee and employer concerns about absence issues, Aviva has found that staff sickness frequently causes low morale amongst those left in the office. The research published this week by viva UK Health found just under a quarter of employees (23%) consider it no fun working for a company where colleagues go on long-term sick leave.

One in five (22%) get annoyed and feel overworked if they have to make up for a colleague's absence in the workplace. For some, these anxieties extend further, with one in ten employees (10%) worrying that the company will go out of business and they'll lose their job if one of their colleagues goes off sick for a prolonged period of time. Colleagues' concerns do not go unnoticed by those that are on sick leave.

A fifth of employees feel guilty about letting colleagues down and 71% reveal they'd be concerned about returning to work from long-term sick leave. While some worry that they won't fit in with their colleagues, or they'll be treated with kid gloves (11%), others question their abilities to still do their job. Nearly one in five (16%) say they'd worry that they won't be able to cope with their old responsibilities.

Moreover, one in ten (11%) worry that their old problem will come back and they'll go off sick again. In addition, the strain of falling ill has a far-reaching financial impact on absent employees. Well over half (58%) of employees worry whether their family or themselves would be able to survive financially if they went on long-term sick leave. One in five (21%) would be concerned about paying their mortgage.

Steve Bridger, head of group risk at Aviva UK Health said: "Our research shows that it is not unusual for an employee to be off sick for a prolonged period of time at some point during their working life. If this happens, both the emotional and financial strains on the absent employee and remaining team members can be huge.

"Simply having the right protection in place can greatly reduce the stresses of being ill for both the employee and the employer. Group income protection for example, offers employers financial protection against the cost of sickness absence. This means that they have funds available to continue to support the absent employee and make provisions to cover the workload of the absent employee - if they choose. In addition, they have access to a range of rehabilitation support to help aid their employee's recovery and ease their return to work."

Long-term sickness absence remains an unavoidable fact and therefore an important issue for employers. Nearly seven in ten (69%) employers questioned in the study say that it is an issue for their company. One fifth (20%) of employees have taken long-term leave due to mental health issues and 24% have been absent due to muscular or skeletal conditions.