Breaking: Zurich Insurance calls on UK Government to mandate rehabilitation support in the workplace

New research conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), on behalf of Zurich Insurance, has found people with long-term health conditions now account for almost a third of the UK workforce.

Related topics:  Zurich,  group benefits
Tabitha Lambie | Editor, Protection Reporter
27th February 2024
Long-term Health
"I was a skeleton, losing muscle and fat while the doctors were helping me to rebuild my body."
- JJ Chalmers, Invictus Gold Medallist

According to the latest research commissioned by Zurich Insurance, the number of employees with long-term health conditions has risen by 27% in the last six years. This figure now sits at a record high of 10.3mn with a total of 112.5mn sick days registered in 2023. This has caused a £32.7bn loss in productivity across the UK - £30.7bn loss in 2022 and £24.6bn in 2021. If current trends continue, lost productivity due to long-term health conditions will cost the economy £66.3bn a year by 2030.

Although COVID-related conditions could be partly responsible for this spike in workplace absences, research suggests that the upward trend was already present before the Pandemic. Are compounding mental health struggles, anxiety, and general repercussions of being out of ‘normal life’ for long periods of time driving this crisis?

In 2017, 25.4% of those in employment suffered from a long-term health condition. This has risen to 30.7% as of 2022, set to breach 40% by 2030. As we speak, the Government is looking to tackle growing long-term health figures. Most recently, this has come in the form of the Department for Work & Pensions’ (DWP) new Occupational Health Taskforce, led by Dame Carol Black. This taskforce was established after the DWP found only 28% of employers in the UK provide any form of occupational health for employees with long-term health conditions - major corporations (89%) are nearly three times more likely to provide support than SMEs (28%).

READ MORE: DWP announce new Occupational Health Taskforce in desperate bid to reduce NHS waiting lists

However, as Peter Hamilton, Head of Market Engagement at Zurich Insurance, rightly points out, “while there are many aspects of occupational health, vocational rehabilitation tends to be the poor relation; it’s overlooked and forgotten […] rehabilitation is the unsung hero, it’s the difference between people getting back to work or not.”

Consequently, Zurich is now calling on the UK Government to mandate rehabilitation support in the workplace. This campaign has been endorsed by Kim Leadbeater MP who believes the UK’s workforce is “not fighting fit.” Kim is pleased that awareness is increasing among employers of the benefits of improving the health and wellbeing of their workforce, “but there is definitely more to be done.”

“Zurich’s research shows the need to spread best practice among employers about how to prevent illness in the workplace through a national ‘health at work’ standard, including provision of vital vocational rehabilitation services, to return the long-term sick to productive employment,” she added.

JJ Chalmers, Invictus Gold Medallist, is also supporting the campaign. In 2014, JJ was hospitalised for nine weeks while serving in Afghanistan: “I was a skeleton, losing muscle and fat while the doctors were helping me to rebuild my body.” He believes businesses “really need to take a leaf out of the military’s book – if you want a resilient and motivated workforce, your people need to know you will offer the right help when people really need it.”

To watch Zurich’s campaign film, follow the link here

More like this
Latest from Financial Reporter
Latest from Property Reporter
to our newsletter

Join a community of over 30,000 intermediaries and keep up-to-date with industry news and upcoming events via our newsletter.