Employers: don’t deal with serious health and wellbeing issues case-by-case

Dealing with serious employee health and wellbeing issues on a case-by-case basis is not only expensive but inefficient and inconsistent, warns GRiD, as its research shows that most businesses provide employee support on an individual basis rather than putting in place a formal, pre-arranged package or contract to support them.

For example, an employee recently diagnosed with cancer may have very complex needs such as requiring a second medical opinion; fast-track access to counselling to support mental health; support through treatment, rehabilitation; financial support; adjustments to their home; time off work etc. It can be a minefield for employers to navigate this vast list of support-needs alone but many are choosing to do just that rather than rely on expert help that can be put in place and bedded-in beforehand.

The research addressed five similar critical scenarios for employees, and highlighted that the most common way for employers to support each employee issue, is on an individual, case-by-case basis:

  • Over half (52%) of employers have supported an employee dealing with bereavement on a case-by- case basis, followed by 12% funding one-off emotional support themselves.
  • Similarly, 43% of employers have supported an employee diagnosed or dealing with a serious illness on a case-by-case basis, 13% through protection insurances and 11% funding one-off emotional support themselves.
  • The most popular way for employers to support an employee absent long term (6 months+) because of ill health, disability and/or accident, is on a case-by-case basis, followed by funding one-off financial and emotional support themselves.
  • Case-by-case support is also the most popular method to support staff with mental ill health and to support an employee’s family after their death.

Expensive

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for Group Risk Development (GRiD), explains the financial consequences of case-by-case support: “Reactive decision-making on behalf of an employee is not only expensive in itself but almost impossible to budget for too. There is virtually no way of knowing how many employees will face a serious issue from one year to the next and that doesn’t make HR popular with the finance team. As an alternative, group risk policies not only offer good value for money but enable all departments to be comfortable that sufficient support is in place year on year, without any unforeseen expenditure.”

Inconsistent

GRiD, the industry body for the group risk protection sector, also warns that inequality and discrimination can unintentionally creep in to HR decision-making if an employer insists on dealing with major issues on an individual basis.

Many employers may believe that ‘case-by-case’ is the best solution because it seems more personal and tailored to the individual. However, it can be all too easy to treat people differently this way, be that men and women; people of differing ages or levels within a business; or just because the HR manager handling the case has a better understanding of a particular situation or a better relationship with one person than another.

It only takes one employee to believe that their support wasn’t comparable with someone else’s and the employer could find themselves having to defend their choices, actions and reputation.

Inefficient

Dealing with each individual scenario as it arises is not only time consuming for the HR team – especially if co-ordination is across different locations or departments – but it is also less efficient for the individual member of staff too as decision making could cause delays in accessing support and treatment.

Employers who put in place a pre-defined package for staff, find that it is less time-consuming and that it enables all employees to be treated equally. Instead of taking on the responsibility for all aspects of the employee’s situation, the employer simply lets the provider know that an employee needs help and the provider then takes over in finding and funding the most appropriate support.

Moxham concluded: “When an employer works with a provider to offer financial, medical or emotional support, they are trusting their employee into the care of professionals who have the expertise to determine the best course of action for that individual. It may be that two people presenting with the same scenario from the same employer receive different treatments, but that will be based on a third-party professional opinion rather than due to employer inconsistencies or inefficiencies.

“We’re obviously pleased to note that just over one in ten businesses currently see the value in using protection insurances to support their employees in these scenarios, but we also know that many more could benefit it they would replace their knee-jerk approach with a more planned way of managing serious employee health and wellbeing issues.”

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