A third of employers not insured for pandemics

More than a third (36.2%) of employers are not covered for pandemics in their insurance, according to research conducted by the Institute of Payroll Professionals (IPP).

The IPP, which conducted the study among its members, states that this is alarming considering the dramatic increase of swine flu cases over the past couple of months.

The Cabinet Office is currently reviewing plans which would allow people with suspected swine flu to extend the amount of time they can take off work without a doctor’s note from seven to 14 days. If the number of cases in the UK rose dramatically then this plan could be enacted for a limited period of time, most likely six months.

A common concern highlighted in the survey was that an extended self certification period was open to abuse from employees looking to ‘pull sickies’ and take extra time off work.

Many respondents commented that the main obstacle to gaining insurance was ensuring the period was only extended for swine flu and nothing else. This could pose a significant burden on some larger businesses which may already have a high turnover of sickness absence. The IPP believes the government intends to apply the change to all sickness absence.

The research also found that doubling the self-certification period for statutory sick pay from seven to 14 days in cases of swine flu will have little impact on payroll administration.

The study revealed that almost three quarters (73%) of UK organisations are well prepared for their payroll administration to cope with any government contingency plans to change the sickness self-certification period.

Only a small percentage (16.5%) would have to make changes to their payroll software to accommodate this proposed change.

Lindsay Melvin, CEO of the IPP, said: “Although a few concerns have been highlighted in this study, it is very encouraging to see that the majority of businesses are fully prepared to deal with any changes to the self-certification period for statutory sick pay.”

“For those businesses unprepared it is vital that they assess their current contingency plans and have a communication strategy in place for keeping their workforce updated on the rapidly changing pandemic situation. It is also important that they check with their payroll software provider to ensure the software will allow the processing of a greater self-certification period.”

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