Believe it or not, it is partly your employer’s responsibility to take care of you when you can’t work, especially due to poor health. So, what employee benefits should you be looking out for?
When we’re young, we feel invincible (yes, being in your 20s is young even when it doesn’t always feel like it). So, falling ill isn’t probably something we think about until it actually happens.
But in reality, especially after COVID, Squigglers realize they’re not superheroes – they’re the generation that actually take the most time off of work, mainly due to physical and mental health (not the 8 pints from last night of course), according to recent research by Benenden Health.
In terms of mental health alone, Deloitte found that 41% of millennials and 46% of Gen Z’s feel stressed all or most of the time, and half of UK millennials and Gen Z’s feel anxious all or most of the time – and this is on a global scale.
So yeah, you could feel like you’re invincible but really, we’re all human – we fall sick and need a break, and it’s important to listen to our bodies and do that before we burn out.
And when we really think about it, what part of our lives is affected the most when we fall ill (apart from our health of course)?
Work. Because our jobs take up so much time in our daily lives.
And that also means that your employer is responsible for helping take care of your health. Benenden Health found that Squigglers make up three-quarters of the UK workforce at the minute, so your boss should really be giving you employee benefits in addition to your salary.
What does my employer give me if I’m off sick?
Most employers have paid sick leave as an employee benefit – it’s the most basic benefit all employees should check for we think. Most 9-5 jobs have two weeks of paid sick leave per year (in addition to leisure holidays!), which means your income isn’t affected as long as you don’t take over two weeks off for health reasons (remember, this is sometimes discretionary, so it’s totally up to your employer how long they pay your salary for – so always check the details with your HR team!)
If your employer doesn’t offer this, or if you go beyond the two weeks offered, you’ll start to receive Statutory Sick Pay or SSP. That means your employer is legally required to pay you just over £100 per week if you’re too ill to work for up to 28 weeks.
And if you’re a freelancer, you’re not even eligible for SSP. You can, however, apply for Employment and Support Allowance or ESA, which is a type of benefit offered by the government, but only if you’ve made enough National Insurance contributions in the last few years (conditions, conditions).
Well, that small amount of money per week isn’t going to keep you going for long, and stops completely after 28 weeks. And yes, you could dip into your savings (if you’ve saved enough), but research by Raisin UK says Squigglers have between only £3,500 to £6,000 in savings – how long until you run out of that too?!
Don’t worry, it’s not all bad news .
How else do employers take care of their employees?
The good news is many employers in the UK (over three-quarters, according to Benenden Health) offer employee healthcare in addition to the statutory allowance (SSP) and beyond additional paid sick leave.
That can include mental health support, medical insurance, dental treatment, health assessments and more. It depends on your employer, really. It’s not more money, but it can offset your medical expenses and in some cases, help you get back on your feet quicker with shorter waiting times than the NHS.
Some employers also believe in the whole prevention is better than cure motto too (and rightly so). Many offer their employees wellbeing support like gym memberships, free mindfulness classes or subscriptions to mental and physical health fitness apps. Most times, these are called “work perks”, but they’re simply employee benefits on top of your monthly salary.
And the best part is that businesses are recognizing the importance of mental health support more and more, with 92% of them focusing their resources on this area in their health and wellbeing programmes, according to AON.
But here’s why you shouldn’t rely on your employer alone
We’ve spoken about the great things employers provide, but word of warning – don’t fully rely on your employer for those times you’re off work ill. Chances are they won’t pay your salary forever (but do check this with HR), and clearly you won’t get too far on SSP alone. Also, those additional shiny health benefits like medical insurance are certainly cool, but they won’t pay the bills (yes, money will make your world go around more than any free breakfast at work). We think you need to take some personal safety steps yourself (and this is even more true for those freelancers and self-employed readers out there because sadly you won’t have any support from an employer)…
Here are a few things you can do for extra protection and peace of mind :
Speak to HR and check your company sick pay policy – how long would they pay your salary if you couldn’t work and how much would they pay? And are there any other monetary benefits they offer? This way, you know how much to expect in case you fall ill
Start building an emergency fund – your own personal savings pot which can step in should the worst happen. A good rule of thumb is to save three months’ worth of rent and expenses in your fund.
Get income protection insurance. It’s a financial product that basically replaces 50% to 70% of your income if you can’t work due to illness or accident for as long as you need it. It’s a great way to complement your employer sick pay if you ever need it. Or if you’re a freelancer or self-employed, you might need to rely on income protection insurance right away. Find out more about income protection insurance here.
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When you fall ill, you might think your employer will have your back – but unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Don’t get me wrong, there are many employers in the UK that are extremely supportive, and all you need to do is ask for the help really, financially or otherwise.
But it’s always good to make sure you’re personally protected, so you can take care of yourself financially, physically and mentally if you need to (only for actual health reasons, not for mid-week hangovers – that’s just on you mate).