Why employers should communicate the value of group risk benefits to staff


Need to know:

  • Communicating group risk benefits can drive appreciation and engagement with the benefit
  • It can raise awareness of how staff can use the benefits for key life events
  • Employers can use communication materials offered by their group risk insurance providers

With the state welfare purse strings drawing ever tighter, communicating the value of group risk benefits to staff, including critical illness insurance, group income protection and death-in-service, is timely, but it is all too often a missed opportunity.

Costly group risk insurances are routinely given to employees as a core benefit, mentioned in the employment contract and never communicated again. This can be a huge missed opportunity to drive appreciation and engagement.

Paul Avis, marketing director at Canada Life Group Insurance, says: “The time to communicate these benefits is not only in the job ad and recruitment process but on an ongoing basis, such as at benefits fairs.”

Increased communication effort

According to the Group watch report 2015 by risk insurer Swiss Re, published in April 2015, the number of employees covered by group risk insurances grew by 200,000 in 2014. But while employers seem willing to shoulder some responsibility for staff health and wellbeing, more could be done to communicate these benefits.

Nick Homer, group protection manager for corporate propositions at Zurich Assurance, says: “Employers are very quiet in communicating what is clearly a fantastic employee benefit.”

Steve Bridger, director of group protection for Aviva, adds: “The majority are not communicating to the degree they could.”

While staff would hope to never claim under their polices, there are many ancillary benefits offered by group risk insurers, such as employee assistance programmes (EAPs) and bereavement counselling, which could be used at any time.

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for the industry body Group Risk Development (Grid), says: “Group risk benefits are much more than just a payout. Providers have thought very carefully to bring other services into the product to support the employees. Employers that get good value out of those services derive huge benefit from it and can free up money to be used elsewhere.”

Timely communication

When it comes to communication and take-up – perhaps where these benefits are offered on a voluntary basis or staff can opt to increase a core level of cover – group risk benefits can be made more relevant by highlighting potential scenarios, such as how income protection could help to pay an employee’s mortgage if they became too ill to work. “It is not about scaremongering – it’s about [employees] understanding how these benefits are relevant to the other things going on in [their lives] at any point,” Bridger explains.

He believes flexible benefits platforms are the best way to drive engagement because they can be an effective way to gain perception of value. “It reminds the employee that their employer takes an interest and is paying money towards protection benefits, and that if they want to they can take that further,” he adds.

But employers could go beyond an annual call to action, says Zurich’s Homer. “While there may be communication in the annual flex benefits window, far more could be done to remind people that they can revise those benefits selections around key life events. Getting married, getting promoted and having children, for example, are all key events where employees can amend their cover outside of the flex window and select cover freely,” he explains.

Readily available resources

Whether a communication strategy includes posters, hard-copy information, access to online apps or benefits fairs, employers should use the resources offered by insurers and intermediaries because many offer ways to communicate and position the benefits on offer, says Grid’s Moxham.

Avis adds: “Our job is to provide materials for employers [but] it is the employer’s job to communicate those benefits. We have wallet cards, flyers, videos, graphics, webcasts, intranet wordings, posters and case studies.”

The message to employers is twofold. First, be aware that the insurer may have communication resources to help. Second, do not ignore the ancillary benefits available because these can help employees perceive the value in what is otherwise only a payout in unhappy circumstances.

As Steve Richardson, group risk consultant at Creative Benefits, adds: “Employees hope they never get to use group risk cover, but they can engage in the additional benefits from day one – they don’t have to wait to become chronically ill. Those benefits don’t bet enough active promotion.”