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Physical health: 5 ways to use employee benefits to support employees as they adapt and adjust to chronic illness

Benefits | Wellness

Posted on: Wednesday January 26, 2022

by Viki Bell

Most employees don’t want to take time off because they’re chronically ill. With reasonable adjustments, they can continue to enjoy rewarding work.   

However, many chronic health conditions are ‘invisible illnesses’ which can, in the wrong work environment, raise unfounded questions about a person’s ability to deliver in their role.  

Why supporting employees with chronic conditions should be a priority  

Around 12.8 million (31%) of working age people in the UK have a long-term health condition. People of all ages can suffer from long-term illness, and chronic diseases are becoming more prevalent across generations.

That’s potentially one of three of your employees dealing with a chronic condition or ‘invisible disability’. It’s an enormous talent pool and by supporting employees with long-term medical conditions, employers can help minimise loss of skills, improve employee retention and productivity, and help their people succeed.

So which employee benefits are most useful in managing chronic illness? 

1. Flexible working 

Truly flexible work arrangements can help both the employee and their organisation - allowing the employee to prioritise their health whilst causing minimal disruption to business as usual.  

Common arrangements include additional breaks to eat, rest, or take life-sustaining medication. Employers may also offer reduced or condensed hours, work from home, or a change in role or location. Finally, flexibility is key when implementing a return to work plan after an employee has taken sick leave. 

2. Listening to employees 

Employees know their own workplace capabilities best. It is important to consider their suggestions and collaborate on a solution that works for everyone.  

Scheduling regular check-ins with line managers is a good idea – both on how the employee is managing with their condition and their general wellbeing. Liaising with occupational health professionals can help ensure a supportive work environment too. 

3. Employee wellbeing 

As well as medical treatment, employees with chronic conditions may benefit from preventive wellness services, such as access to physical therapy, exercise classes and health screening.  

Mental wellbeing services are also part of the wellbeing package. People with long-term physical health issues often suffer from mental health conditions as well and would value support to help them absorb the ups and downs of life with a chronic illness. 

You can help by providing flexible support; for example an EAP helpline. Employees can access the EAP confidentially, via their own device, in the privacy of their home – or indeed anywhere they feel comfortable. EAPs advise on a huge range of complex issues, and many also offer access to counselling sessions.  

4. OnDemand GP 

We all know that finding the time to speak to a doctor can be difficult, with extended waiting times and unhelpful surgery opening hours. Giving staff access to on-demand GP appointments means that staff can speak to a medical professional via telephone or video consultation, 24 hours a day, and often within a few hours of their request.   

As well as being able to diagnose and prescribe, online GP appointments can help employees manage their long-term health conditions, preventing extended sickness leave. And it’s available for the employee’s family too, which can be helpful for reducing short term absence when parents need to care for a sick child.   

5. Employee health insurance 

Private health insurance often tops lists of UK employees’ most wanted benefits. It’s reassuring to know that your employer will help you pay for swift medical care should you need it. But many policies exclude pre-existing conditions so don’t necessarily help with the problem of managing chronic illness at work. 

Plus, it’s not a benefit offered in all jobs. Some companies face a dilemma: they want to keep workers safe and productive, but a limited benefits budget means they are unable to provide cover for ill health.  

For these employers, the best solution may be to partner with an insurer who can provide workers with easy access to cost-effective, individual policies and cash plans. Employees also value the chance to safeguard themselves from the impact of ill health on their earnings.  

Find out more about Personal Group’s affordable hospital plan, convalescence plan and death benefit

Summary  

Employees with chronic conditions make up a significant proportion of the UK workforce. The right employee benefits can help them manage their condition to improve their quality of life and ability to continue working.  

Contact Personal Group by emailing letschat@personalgroup.com or completing our contact form. We’ll advise you on how to create a benefits package for your organisation which supports all employees to thrive in work and in life. 

Looking to step up your wellbeing game? 

Transform™ powered by TruConnect and delivered by Hapi completes a total wellbeing solution - with hundreds of workout classes, motivational messages, mental health support, healthy recipes, tools for a better night’s sleep and stress management techniques.  

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