How to position group risk benefits to support long-term health issues

group risk health
  • Communicating the value of group risk products and the areas in which they protect staff is key.
  • Group risk schemes often offer added services that can further support staff.
  • Early intervention can increase return-to-work rates following a long-term health issue, so it is key to communicate who staff can contact and when.

Group risk benefits can help employees deal with many conditions, but employers should consider how best to promote them in order to support those with long-term health issues.

According to data published by industry body Group Risk Development (Grid) in May 2022, the main causes of long-term health conditions claims in 2021 were cancer (33%) and heart disease (16%). The same year, the main cause of new claims for group life, group income protection and group critical illness cover was cancer, the second causes were heart disease for group life, mental illness for group income protection and heart attack for group critical illness cover. Covid-19 was the third cause for group life and the fifth for group income protection claims.

Support on offer

Employees’ awareness of the benefits available through their employer is key, as well as knowing what a group risk scheme can offer.

Group risk providers have added extra services to their offerings, including employee assistance programmes, second medical opinion services, access to health apps, rehabilitation services, helplines and counselling, and online GP services, which increased due to the pandemic.

The added-value services, which are often included in group life and income protection policies, are designed to be accessed from day one of employment, says Adrian Matthews, head of employee benefits at MetLife.

“It is crucial that benefits and how to access them are shared with employees as soon as they join and are part of a year-round calendar of activities, so they know how to make best use of what is provided,” he says. “It’s best to clarify what protection products are available and detail the associated benefits regularly without overloading them.”

Some group risk products also offer assistance with pain management for long-term health issues such as arthritis, as well as modifications with equipment in the workplace.

Benefit communication

Often, communication of the available benefits will depend on the employer and what works best for it. Some may communicate how their group risk schemes can help with long-term health issues via face-to-face meetings or paper notifications, whereas others will use online technology, such as webinars, to get the message to remote employees.

The best way to communicate group risk benefits is to position these as services that support with long-term health issues, help employees back to work and provide financial assistance, says Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for Grid.

“Employers should inform employees through little-and-often reminders that these products exist and are waiting to be used when employees are off ill from work for a length of time,” she says. “If a message about available group risk products is constantly being pumped out, then employees will remember them. One simple idea is to have a wallet-sized card with all the relevant telephone numbers on, which can be kept close to staff at all times.”

Employers can also use annual benefits statements to communicate what they offer, adds Ron Wheatcroft, technical manager at Swiss Re. Often, employees will be told what they can access on their first day of employment and then never again.

“Death benefits are often linked to pensions, as beneficiaries can be receive their late partner’s allowance, so these can be communicated through pension statements,” he says. “Critical illness cover can be communicated through staff enrolment anniversaries and they can be invited to update their preferences.”

Employers should monitor even small absences, as this can identify early warning signs that an employee needs help. Early intervention can increase return-to-work rates following a long-term health issue, so it is key to communicate who employees can contact and when.

Early intervention, the employee referral process and how return-to-work pathways work, are all key communication points, says Matthews.

“[Employers] should understand that pathways can be personalised to the employee to ensure success and minimise absence duration, at times preventing an absence becoming long-term in the first place, and that offering access to expert counselling and support guides needs to be communicated to employees,” he says.

Promoting usage

Communicating the value of group risk products and the areas in which they protect staff is important. This will not only help to attract new talent but will also remind existing staff of the valuable benefits they have access to.

Team leaders or managers should have access to information and training about the benefits so that they can confidently articulate them to their team, says Ian Ranger, head of claims and medical scheme underwriting at Canada Life.

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“Employers should make sure that remuneration and benefits information are updated and easily accessible via portals, as this will also help to introduce them to either prospective or new employees,” he explains. “For ongoing activity, employers can link to national health awareness days, as these provide a great platform on which to promote health and wellbeing.”

Promoting the value of group risk benefits and the added-value services will pay dividends in the successful return to work and rehabilitation of employees with long-term health issues.