The report, conducted by Cass Business school and commissioned by income protection firm Unum, showed that the UK’s workforce has become ‘older, more feminised and [includes] more disabled workers’, but employee benefits have not adapted with the changing profile, and now leave more people exposed.
The study shows that the number of people with disabilities or long-term illnesses has increased by 11% since 30 years ago. This is traditionally the group that is more likely to fall into unemployment in the first place, and then finds it hardest to get back into work.
Next most vulnerable are older workers. The study points out that by 2020, about a third of the UK’s workforce will be over 50 years of age. With pension schemes from private companies an expensive relic of the past, ever-decreasing numbers of people have enough money stashed away for retirement. That means a growing group of people whose financial future is pretty worrying.
The third group highlighted by the study was employees with caring responsibilities. It says that 15% of people leave work within a year of their spouse becoming unemployed, specifically for health reasons.
CEO of Unum, Peter O’Donnell, says: ‘More than ever people are looking to their employers to provide the financial protection the need. A better protected workforce is good for the employer, as well as for the employee.’ He added that rehabilitation support is often essential in getting people back to work.
Employee benefits, says the report, need to be improved. Amongst the recommendations it made were:
• Offer income protection to the long-term sick
• Contribute a higher proportion of salaries to workplace pension schemes
• Provide higher contributions to women, to address gender inequalities caused by career breaks to have children
• Extend additional flexible working rights to people with caring responsibilities