A Benefit for a Pandemic Nation
If there is one benefit that tackles the wellbeing problems that the Covid-19 pandemic brings to UK employees, it is group income protection. Most employees fear getting long terms sick and not having money to support themselves whilst they recover. Group income protection provides financial support for those who are long term sick, thus mitigating this issue for employers and employees alike.
However, Covid-19 has not just unleashed a range of physical and financial health problems on to UK employees, it has also unleashed a range of mental health problems. Lockdown and the structural changes to the economy / work means that employees have to deal with many blows to their psychological wellbeing. Isolation, anxiety and stress are all prevalent. For those employees who are struggling to cope, group income protection provides a much-needed financial lifeline should they not be able to work helping to alleviate some aspects of their concerns.
However, it’s not just the financial support element that makes group income protection the perfect benefit for this time, it is the range of additional wellbeing services that it provides to employers.
The first part is that all providers in the UK offer rehabilitation services as part of group income protection cover. So, not only can it provide financial support, but it can also help with elements of treatment and rehabilitation. UK providers ask for potential claims to be notified to them as early as possible, giving them time to assess the reason for the potential claim and how they might assist in helping the employee get back to work. This can lead to assistance being provided such as counselling or physiotherapy. There is even a chance that private medical treatment might be paid for, in the right circumstances.
The second part is a ‘free’ employee assistance programme (EAP). I’ve often smirked in the past when people mention an EAP, as historically take-up has been so low to make the tool redundant. However, in a world where people are feeling a little more comfortable in using services that support mental wellbeing and underlying mental health problems are being exacerbated by circumstances, they are also having a second wind. This is quite apart from all the hard work that EAP providers are doing to make their services more relevant offering more ways to access help and a wider range of services. A range of online services from apps to online consultations has made the overall proposition more relevant for a Covid-19 world.
The third part is the widening range of other added value services. We’re beginning to see a whole host of other services be bundled into a group income protection proposition from second opinion services, online health assessments, mental wellbeing apps / training, online retail discounts and many more. These touch on all aspects of employee wellbeing from the classic issues around physical and mental health through to further aspects of financial wellbeing.
The bad news is that very few employers offer group income protection to their employees, especially all of their employees. So, potentially one of the strongest employee benefits we have to help with the pandemic is barely in place with any UK businesses. This makes relatively little sense as most employers have some form of absence policy in place that provides financial support to employees for at least 12 months and often beyond this period. Group income protection is simply an insurance that supports this absence promise for an employer. From a risk management perspective, you already have some level of liability, but you are self-insuring it.
Many employers mention cost as a barrier to taking out this insurance, but for the range of benefits outlined above, group income protection is significantly cheaper than expenditure on pensions and private medical insurance (c. 1% of total salary roll as opposed to a minimum of 3-5% for pension). In addition, you already have some level of liability in respect of employee absence, so the insurance is simply a crystallisation of this costs as an annual premium – not really a ‘new business expense’.
Taking into account all of this, isn’t it worth taking another long look at group income protection for your business? If so, for a consultative and nuanced discussion of the options, please contact EBC LLP.