Group risk: How providers give added value

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Group income protection (GIP) providers are increasingly offering added-value services, including employee assistance programmes (EAPs), line management training and absence management services, as part of their premium to help boost take-up.

• Employers can further enhance GIP product take-up by regularly raising awareness of their provider’s added-value services.

• Extending added-value GIP benefits to their entire workforce can help employers to better manage employee absence.

Case study: JP Morgan shows value of wellbeing benefits

With about 14,000 employees in the UK, promoting JP Morgan’s health and wellbeing benefits is a major exercise.

Adam Brooke, vice-president, employee benefits (UK) at JP Morgan, says: “Eighteen months ago, we ran an employee survey on wellness to find out whether our employees understood what we offered,” says. “The results of this indicated there was more we could do, so we set up a wellness committee with support from senior management and the benefits team.”

As well as bringing together all the different health benefits, which include group income protection (GIP), an employee assistance programme (EAP) and health screening on one website, Brooke and his team have focused on keeping communications fresh. “We send out a quarterly email linked to a different topic, for instance cancer or beating the winter blues, and promote the benefits in line with this,” he says.

One recent campaign focused on family life and how to improve communication with teenagers and children. It included a webinar that helped to promote the EAP.

Brooke says the results have been good. “We have increased engagement significantly. The average EAP enjoys usage of around 3% to 5%, but ours is between 8% and 10%. It is good to make employees aware that we are supporting them.”

Providers are adding extra services such as employee assistance programmes to tempt employers to take up group income protection, says Sam Barrett

Group income protection (GIP) has traditionally been sidelined by employers because of its hefty cost, relative to other employee benefits. But this could soon change as providers continue to introduce a range of value-added services in the price of their GIP premium, hoping to make employers stop and think twice about take-up.

Chris Ford, director of group risk at Jelf Employee Benefits, welcomes this move. “Claims are low on GIP, so it can be seen as an expensive product,” he says. “By adding in extra services that can be used more frequently, it becomes a much more attractive proposition.”

Services that are being added to GIP products vary between insurers, but the most common is an employee assistance programme (EAP). These typically provide a telephone-based service offering support for anything from financial worries and family issues through to stress and health-related problems. These free services can also include face-to-face counselling, with six sessions per employee now the norm across the industry.

EAPs tend to be promoted as an employee benefit, but employers will also gain from their take-up. Helene Gullen, senior manager, channel development at Unum, says: “EAPs can help with everyday stuff, such as finding a nursery or a removals firm. As this takes much less time than trawling the internet to find the information yourself, it can drive up productivity.”

Helpline services

Helplines are another common add-on to GIP products. For example, Aviva offers a bereavement helpline and a doctor helpline, while Friends Life offers a health information line. Also, Canada Life and Friends Life have partnered with Best Doctors, which offers staff and dependants a comprehensive diagnosis of serious health issues.

But not all add-on services are employee-focused. For example, Unum and Canada Life target employers by adding business support services to their GIP products.

Canada Life offers Business Care, which it describes as HR in a box, providing business, legal and health and safety support for employers online or by phone. Paul Avis, sales and marketing director at Canada Life Group Insurance, says: “It is very valuable to a smaller employer that might face consultancy fees whenever [it] accesses this information independently, but even for larger employers that have their own HR and legal departments, it can be a useful sanity check.”

Line management training is also available from, for example, Jelf Employee Benefits. As with most employee benefits, GIP take-up can be enhanced by line managers helping to identify potential claims as early as possible. Jelf’s Ford says the training explains the GIP policy and where it fits within an organisation’s health strategy. However, he points out that take-up is more likely within larger employers.

Employee Benefits

Aviva also offers line manager training. Steve Bridger, head of group risk at Aviva UK Health, says: “Line managers are usually technical people who become managers because they are good at their job, but suddenly they are expected to deal with mental and physical health problems. This is not necessarily something that comes naturally, so we are happy to come into the workplace and help them understand what to look out for when someone is having problems.”

The latest market innovation is a GIP product that includes an absence management support system. Ellipse’s InteractPlus records employee absence through a phone-based service that employees use to notify their employer when they are unable to attend work. Peter Fenner, communications manager at Ellipse, says: “The danger of managing absence in-house is that it can be haphazard, making it difficult for the employer to identify any trends or cases that could become long-term absence. By using this service, it becomes easier to spot cases where early intervention can have a positive effect on length of absence.”

Absence management service

Fenner concedes that including the absence management service can make Ellipse’s product more expensive than some of its competitors’, but adds: “It is cheaper than buying the two products separately and, because it can identify potential long-term absence early, it can help to keep claim costs down.”

Communication is key to the success of any added-value benefit. Traditional methods such as posters, flyers and wallet cards can be effective, with most GIP insurers able to provide these. New media is another option, with Facebook pages and webcasts bringing another dimension to benefits promotion.

Targeted messages add to the effectiveness of a communications campaign. For example, debt and divorce issues often come to the fore in January when realities sink in after Christmas, and the summer months can be an opportune time to promote the benefits of health awareness and the dangers of skin cancer.

Declan White, head of group protection strategy and marketing at Friends Life, says it is essential to keep promoting benefits. “Keep repeating the message so employees understand what they have got. We find the best take-up is among those employers that communicate well.”

But employers must apply caution to their strategy because not all employees will be members of their GIP scheme.

“If only some employees are members of the scheme, [employers’] communication methods are much more limited,” says Canada Life Group Insurance’s Avis. “The backs of toilet doors may be ideal places for posters promoting the EAP, but you can’t have policyholder and non-policyholder toilets.”

Direct marketing to members

Direct marketing to scheme members through their payslips, emails or in their total reward statements is one way to avoid upsetting staff who do not enjoy GIP cover. Alternatively, some insurers allow employers to extend any added-value services to all employees. Depending on the size of the employer and the breadth of the scheme, this could be made available at no extra cost or for a further fee. Canada Life, for example, automatically extends its free services to all employees, regardless of whether they are in the GIP scheme. Avis adds: “It makes it much easier to communicate these benefits, which can have a positive effect on claims on the GIP.”

The numbers relating to the effectiveness of EAPs speak for themselves. Statistics from FirstAssist, which runs Canada Life’s EAP, show 53% of programme users would have gone absent if they had not received support through the EAP.

However, not all providers are falling over themselves to offer added-value services. Zurich Corporate Risk is a case in point, preferring to offer a traditional, thrills-free product focused on early intervention and rehabilitation that kick in when a claim occurs. Nick Homer, proposition development manager at Zurich Corporate Risk, says: “We decided not to include any extra services because we are not convinced of the value of them. These freebies are unlikely to be heavily promoted and embedded in the organisation’s culture, so utilisation is generally very low.”

While there is an argument for promoting GIP as a benefit in its own right, Louise Flowers, head of risk and wellbeing at Lorica Employee Benefits, says it can cause a dilemma. “GIP is a great benefit, but do employers want to advertise the fact that they will pay an income replacement if someone goes off long-term sick? It is difficult.”

To avoid this problem, and with employee understanding of income protection low, including it on employees’ total reward statements can be an effective strategy.

Flowers says it is often a considerable amount. “Some employers take this a step further and add details of how much the cover would cost if the employee had arranged the cover themselves. This can turn out to be a much higher figure.”

Employee Benefits

Read more articles from the Employee Benefits group risk supplement 2012