Mark Forato: Align group risk with need to boost productivity

The Employee Benefits Group risk supplement 2013, published in July, was valuable food for thought at a critical time for the market.

The key point is the extent to which group risk benefits align with the need to boost productivity and growth in the current environment.

Our research with Cass Business School shows that the UK workforce has changed dramatically in the past 30 years. However, many employers’ approach to staff benefits has not kept pace with the needs of their employees.

For example, life insurance became a benefit ‘norm’ in the 1980s, and continues to be so. But medicine has come a long way since then. We are more likely to survive serious conditions, to the point where staff are three times more likely to suffer long-term illness than they are to die. Still, only one in 10 has access to income protection through work.

Ensuring the financial security of staff can also help drive engagement, recruitment and retention, delivering significant productivity gains for employers. What is more, the staging of pensions auto-enrolment demonstrates growing government understanding that the workplace is the best channel for addressing personal financial challenges. 

Of course, saving for a pension is important, but what about the 90% of workers who have no back-up plan should they be forced to leave work through long-term illness or injury before their pension even kicks in? 

All of us, employers, brokers and providers, should consider all these aspects holistically when looking to tackle sickness absence and boost company productivity.

Mark Forato is chief marketing officer at Unum UK