One in two employers still need to comply with legislation introduced last year on sick pay, according to research that we’ve recently undertaken.

The Employment Rights (Employment Particulars and Paid Annual Leave) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 (SI 2018/1378), which came into force on 6 April 2020, mean employers are now compelled to tell their staff, on day one of employment or before, what their entitlement to any sick pay is. However, GRiD research reveals that many are still reviewing their communications and protocols (28%), some are aware but haven’t taken any action (10%), some are completely unaware of the change (7%) and 5% weren’t sure how they’d adapted to the new legislation. 

Employers have had a lot on their plates over the last year, and we appreciate this is one more thing for them to think about. However, many employers are looking to enhance their support for staff right now and this legislation helps create an opportunity to review that. And, as employees look to their employer to know what support is available, this is an opportunity to engage with them on exactly what that support looks like in practice.

Employers who have not complied with the legislation are not only breaking the law but they are fundamentally missing a trick. The organisation believes this is an opportunity to let staff know how employers are going to look after them should they be off work with sickness or injury, an issue that has been particularly highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Many employees often assume that their employer will look after them if they’re unable to work but in fact they may only offer Statutory Sick Pay of £96.35 a week for up to 28 weeks. That understanding may have come too late for some staff during the pandemic but employers who do go the extra mile by providing full support, including access to health and wellbeing specialists, early intervention and rehabilitation, and specialist therapies, should be using this as a chance to differentiate themselves. 

Every employer will know the expense of recruitment, in terms of both time and resources, when staff leave for pastures new. This legislation means that those companies who truly value their employees and demonstrate that by supporting them when they are absent, are more likely to win the battle to recruit and importantly, retain, the best talent.

The legislation is an opportunity for all employers to review their employee benefits communication strategy. We know that employers don’t always fully understand the minutiae of the employee benefits that they offer, which makes it more difficult to communicate their importance to staff. However, the employers who then find themselves falling short in comparison to competitors when it comes to providing enhanced absence support for employees have a binary choice: to improve their offering or explain to staff that they only offer the statutory minimum.

Providing support for employees during their absence is effective and inexpensive via group risk products (employer-sponsored income protection, life assurance and critical illness), particularly group income protection (GIP). Through a GIP policy, not only is the employee assisted – financially, emotionally and practically – but many insurers also support the employer by liaising with both parties to facilitate a successful return to work, to help the employer understand any reasonable adjustments that could be made, and by providing support for line managers to appreciate the individual’s situation. Providing comprehensive sickness support is not just about complying with the law – it’s about doing the best for staff and the business as a whole too.