Some 73% of workers in Ireland would continue to work if they were to fall ill for an extended period of time out of a sense of responsibility to their family and/or their employer.

The findings are contained in a new survey conducted by iReach Insights on behalf of Aviva.

The study of 700 working adults from across the country found that more than one-third of employees are unaware that there may be benefits available to them as part of their employment contract over and above their financial remuneration and annual leave.

The Aviva survey pointed to some discrepancy in the experience of male and female employees, with more women than men saying that they are unaware if there were any additional benefits associated with their employment.

The survey also explored what benefits workers would most value.

The findings show that employees place greater importance on benefits such as private healthcare and income protection than free/subsidised lunches, club memberships or contributions towards childcare costs.

"One of the most telling findings of the survey was just how many of us would feel some pressure to continue to work primarily to support our family, but also to make a meaningful contribution to our employer even if we were to fall ill for several months," said Siocha Costello from Aviva.

"Just why people feel this is unclear but the financial implications of being absent from work is undoubtedly a key consideration," she said.

"This underscores the value of an employer paid income protection policy as a benefit to allow employees recover from illness without financial worry and to encourage staff retention," Ms Costello said.