Group income protection is a valuable tool for managing the risks and costs associated with sickness absence. GRiD spokeswoman Katharine Moxham explores Reward’s employer research results on long-term sickness

health insurance

Group risk benefits play a significant role in protecting employees and their families from the financial dev­astation that illness, disability, acci­dent or death can bring. Group income protection (GIP), particularly, has evolved over recent years as group risk provid­ers have worked hard to deliver value beyond the payment of claims.

In 2015, group risk providers paid £347m in group income protection claims. Impor­tantly, they helped 1,878 people back to work with active intervention before they even received a GIP claim payment – great and tan­gible support for employers. This represents 25% of the GIP claims submitted in 2015, demonstrating the value that providers add beyond paying claims.

Death or disability has a life-changing impact on staff and their families, irrespective of age or role. Crucially, group risk products offer up support – such as employee assistance programmes, HR and legal advice, online health assessments, mental health first aid training and fast-track access to counselling and physiotherapy – which can be extremely effective in keeping people in the workplace, giving them the help they need to make life changes and supporting them back to work.

It’s important to emphasise that these ser­vices can be used every single day – even if a claim is never made – and can drive engage­ment and release money to spend elsewhere.

Increasingly, employers are recognising the value to their business of having a healthy and resilient workforce.

Reinforcing this, group risk protection sup­port is further evolving to encompass greater help for employers in managing the health and wellbeing of their workforce and encouraging better health behaviours, for example through access to GP services, health tracking apps and mental wellbeing advice.

It’s encouraging to see that the employers taking part in the Reward research recognise the value of GIP as part of their wellbeing strat­egy, with 40.6% offering this benefit to all staff – acknowledging the fact that everyone needs a way to protect their financial position.

Group risk benefits enable a business to reinforce its position as a caring employer by throwing a financial lifeline when people need it most. It therefore makes sense to ensure that employees understand what is in place, as financial peace of mind can generate much goodwill. Staff do value this benefit, with over 50% of those surveyed by Reward saying they think their staff value GIP either “quite a lot” or “very much”.

GRiD’s latest employer research shows that 60% of employers accept that they have a greater role to play in protecting the health and welfare of their staff, and providing financial resilience through group risk protection prod­ucts can be a cost-effective way to do just this.

It’s interesting that the Reward research indicates that over half of employers ques­tioned (59.3%) think that government should work with employers to help make income protection standard for all staff. The govern­ment is focused on helping people to achieve financial resilience and reducing the disability employment gap: the Financial Capability Strategy, developed by the Money Advice Ser­vice, and the Department for Work & Pensions/Department of Health Work, Health and Disa­bility Green Paper: Improving Lives are clear indicators of this intent.

Indeed, GIP has been identified as having a greater role to play in the delivery of the goals outlined in the DWP/DH green paper.

Educating staff and facilitating affordable protection cover supports employees in achiev­ing financial resilience, which makes a huge difference to morale, staff retention and pro­ductivity – key business benefits.

This article first appeared in Reward's new research report, Wellbeing in the Workplace 2017. To read the report in full, CLICK HERE