Employee benefits must include core protection as well as support services to help employees get back to work after a serious diagnosis, senior protection spokespeople have said.
Ambika Fraser, head of proposition development for healthcare provider Unum, said a comprehensive employee benefits strategy is a vital element to attracting, retaining and maintaining talented employees, but more needs to be done to help staff get back to work and thrive within their role.
"A good strategy can prevent absences through early intervention and support; reduce length of sickness absence; support managers and enhance the overall well-being of the workforces.
“In addition to core protection products, such as income protection and critical illness cover, additional support services that often come with these products can prove invaluable to both employee and employer," she said.
Ms Fraser highlighted how employee assistance programmes (EAPs) that come as part of workplace protection can be "extremely effective as a first line of defence".
This is true for those staff suffering from mental health concerns, as well as those being diagnosed with cancer.
For example, Ms Fraser said Unum's Harley Street cancer concierge service offers employees additional support services – including a second opinion – that dovetail with their NHS treatment.
According to Ms Fraser: "As our NHS continues to struggle with demand and financial protection becomes a higher priority for employees, employers need to ensure they have a deep understanding of the bespoke needs of their staff.
"It also means that as an industry we need to continue to innovate in our product offerings and support services."
Earlier this year, Mark Allan, commercial director for Bupa, told FTAdviser it was becoming a business imperative for businesses to support colleagues affected by serious illnesses and cancer.
He commented: "Every two minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer. Being diagnosed can be extremely distressing and we know from speaking to businesses they want to provide their people with support.
"Offering employees access to high-quality treatment is one of the ways that businesses look to support employees post-diagnosis. For many [people], work can help them maintain a semblance of normality following a cancer diagnosis."
Bupa partners with businesses that use early occupational health advice to implement flexible working strategies.
Mr Allan said these can help employees to remain in work while enabling them to attend appointments, treatment sessions or to recuperate post-treatment.