One of the trends we are seeing in the Channel Islands is an increase in the number of employees who are off with long term illnesses, in particular with mental health issues. Recent reports suggests employees are increasingly making use of wider benefits supporting mental health such as employee assistance programs, wellness applications, and health insurance cover for therapy.
This increase in long-term absence is causing a number of challenges for financial services employers in the Channel Islands, who are trying to balance a tight labour market, with increased regulatory requirements and scrutiny, whilst supporting their employees health and wellbeing to mark themselves out as employers of choice.
As a result we are frequently being asked to advise on managing sickness absence in the workplace. We have also a significant spike in enquiries to help support businesses with potential permanent health insurance / critical illness cover claims. One of the issues here is that mental health is sometimes expressly excluded from cover.
Managing ill health gives rise to challenging legal issues, and it is important to put in place legal and risk management steps at the outset to minimise exposure to potential claims.
Employers should consider:
1) reviewing their benefits to consider what cover is in place to support employees, particularly with mental health / wellbeing;
2) clearly communicate the support that is in place. With PHI in particular, employees should be told of any exclusions. This can often save a lot of time and prevent any confusion down the line; and
3) putting in place any reasonable adjustments to support employees suffering from long term sickness, including where appropriate flexible working to support the employee.
We also recommend seeking legal advice as soon as possible to manage the process.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.