We all expect insurance policies to pay out when we need them and group income protection is no exception, but that is not all it does.
Group risk benefits are mostly associated with catastrophic life events, such as illness, accidents, disability and death, but they can, and do, provide everyday help to HR, line managers, business owners and employees alike, in recognition of the fact that making a claim is not an everyday occurrence.
The group risk industry has long recognised the importance of early intervention in supporting people through difficult times and helping them remain in or get back to work. That is why group income protection in particular has evolved away from a purely financial product to one that includes support services that complement an employer’s health, attendance and wellbeing programmes.
For employees, these can include an employee assistance programme (EAP), preventative support, fast-track access to counselling or physiotherapy, early absence interventions, a second medical opinion and more. For employers, support can include HR and employment law advice, legal document-writing systems, absence management, telephone support for difficult situations, mediation and others.
Group risk support is also moving forward to include help in encouraging better health behaviours, for example, giving access to GP services, health tracking apps and mental health support for staff.
Group Risk Development’s (Grid) Claims survey 2017, published in May 2017, reported that 2,289 people were helped back to work with active early intervention support from a group risk insurer. This might have been fast-track access to counselling or physiotherapy, or even other treatment. It might have been help with workspace modifications or mediation. Or, it might even have been an extraordinary ex-gratia payment as in Molly’s story (see below). The fact is, providers go above and beyond just making a claim payment. People’s needs are met when they are treated as individuals, and group risk providers understand that the experience employees receive from them day in and day out can have a lasting impact.
Molly put forward a claim under her employer’s group income protection policy because she had been absent from work after members of her family had been in a horrific accident in which her four-year-old daughter was killed and her mother suffered life-changing injuries. Before the accident, Molly’s mother had looked after Molly’s children each day while Molly was at work.
Although Molly’s GP confirmed that Molly was not suffering from an illness or injury which would prevent her from working in her usual role, the insurer acknowledged that the circumstances of Molly’s absence were extreme. She had suffered a bereavement, was without childcare for her other children due to her mother’s serious injuries, and also had to take time off work due to circumstances beyond her control, including going to meetings with a homicide case worker.
The insurer, therefore, felt it was appropriate, under such extreme circumstances, to support Molly and her employer while the legal process relating to the accident progressed. The insurer, therefore, paid an ex-gratia lump sum equivalent to six months benefit as a gesture of goodwill.
This is just one story; last year, more than 27,000 people were helped by group risk claim payments or an active early intervention, plus countless others who accessed help and support through their EAP, or a second medical opinion service or help in making changes to a healthier lifestyle.
Group risk benefits have evolved beyond the claim to support people in all sorts of different ways, so effective use of this help is key for businesses wanting to better support their people.
Katharine Moxham is spokesperson at Group Risk Industry Development