Advice on VR for Employers

Last reviewed on 16/02/2015 09:28

This page gives details of the benefits of VR to employers and why organisations should get involved.

Quick links:

The costs of sickness absences to UK business

Throughout the UK in an average week, 3,000 people are off sick for more than six months, and of those 80% will not work again for the next five years (Department for Work and Pensions, 2006 (external site)).

In a CBI Report (Attending to Absence: Absence and Labour Turnover Survey 2007) the average days lost per employee in the public sector was 9.00 days and in the private sector 6.3 days.

The average direct cost of absence each year is approximately £534 per employee per year; indirect costs are estimated at £1070 per employee per year; total cost per employee per year of sickness is approximately £1600, typically around 9% of payroll costs (Norwich Union Healthcare, 2001)

The annual cost to the UK economy is estimated at £10-12 billion (Department for Work and Pensions, 2006 (external site)).

back to top

The benefits of VR

For organisations that choose to take up opportunities for VR, the benefits extend beyond merely reducing the direct costs of sickness absence.

The indirect costs of absences – falls in productivity caused by reduced workforce or the need to train new staff – can be considerable (often twice that of direct costs). Working with employees so that they can remain in post or return to work earlier means these burdens can largely be avoided.

Retaining trusted and valued members of staff also means that the organisation can continue to benefit from their knowledge and experience.

If others can see how their employer works to support its staff in times of difficulty, they are likely to feel that their workplace is a positive environment in which to work. This can help with staff retention across the board.

Knowing that it is possible to be remained at work despite illness or injury, and that help is available to do so, may also make staff more likely to approach their employer and others for help before their condition worsens to the point at which work becomes impossible.

back to top

Cancer and employment

Each year in the UK, approximately 90,000 people of working age receive a new cancer diagnosis (figure from Macmillan Cancer Care).

But receiving a cancer diagnosis does not necessarily mean an end to that employee's relationship with their workplace. Indeed, the Equality Act 2010 has protected workers with cancer and placed legal duties on employers to make reasonable adjustments to jobs and workplaces so that they can continue in work, or return to it swiftly following treatment.

Just as important, it is worth remembering:

'People who have had treatment for cancer are as productive as people who have not had cancer, they take less time off work than other employees, and in general, they perform well in the workplace.' (Schulz, P. et al, 2002. 'Cancer Survivors – Work Related Issues', American Association of Occupational Health Nurses Journal.)

Macmillan Cancer Care and Healthy Working Lives have produced a DVD and a booklet to help employers to better support workers with a cancer diagnosis and to meet their legal obligations.

Download 'Cancer in the Workplace' (booklet)

To request copies of the DVD, please email:  

back to top

Further information on VR

For advice on disability and employment matters, you can also contact your local Jobcentre Plus and ask to speak to a disability advisor. Find your local Jobcentre Plus (external site)

For more information on Healthy Working Lives' programme of work around Vocational Rehabilitation, please email: 

back to top