New research from Aviva UK Health has revealed how business owners feel torn between their emotions and business duties when dealing with employees on long term leave of absence.

Nearly half of employers (50%) questioned in the 360 degree study consider long term sick leave to be an issue for their business with 27% admitting it gives them a major staffing headache. But despite the impact staff sickness may have on a business, the research showed employers also feel the strain emotionally.

The modern day employer is tasked with managing more complex illnesses in the workplace. While musculoskeletal problems still heavily contribute to work absence (27%), many companies now have to deal with highly emotive conditions such as cancer (19%), mental health issues (30%) and drink and drug related issues (16%). In addition nearly one in five employers (16%) have experienced staff with heart problems.

While traditional business pressures remain – with just over a third (34%) stating that they were concerned how to balance legal obligations to the employee whilst managing the business, employers increasingly face emotional challenges. Over half (61%) of employers say their primary concern when an employee goes on long term absence is the health and wellbeing of the employee. A further 23% are anxious about the pressure this absence would put on other employees’ workloads.

Survival rates from conditions such as cancer are improving and many employees are eager to return to the normality of the office. Yet, nearly one in five (17%) employers admitted when dealing with someone with a potentially life threatening condition, they would find it even harder to manage the needs of business and their duty of care to the employee. 14% said they would be anxious about finding a way to deal with the employee without upsetting them.

Steve Bridger, Head of Group Risk at Aviva UK Health says:

“The Government’s recent decision to commission David Frost and Dame Carol Black to conduct an independent review of the sickness absence system is long overdue. Our research clearly shows that many companies are affected by long-term sickness absence. Employees need care and consideration when they are unwell but, crucially they also need expert physical and psychological support to help them return to, and stay in work.