Employers must start to see group protection as a benefit for them and their staff, rather than as a cost, Katharine Moxham, spokesman for Group Risk Development (GRiD), has said.
Ms Moxham said: “Employers do not always make a financial link between the health and well-being of their employees and a financial benefit to the company.
“This is where they need to be advised well, so they realise the effect it might have if key personnel go off sick – especially in smaller companies.”
When asked whether a form of compulsion on employers – as had been suggested as part of a package of reforms last year by various bodies such as the ABI and by Canada Life – would help to bridge the protection gap, Ms Moxham said it might not be the best, or the only way.
She said: “No government is going to stand up ahead of an election and tell people what they’ll actually get on a welfare state, and I don’t see government being willing to campaign on a pledge to force businesses to auto-enrol people into a protection product.
“However, what government should do is encourage and educate people so that employers realise the benefits of doing the right thing by offering protection as a benefit.”
Last month, a poll from GRiD found that only 27 per cent of employers had introduced flexible working initiatives to meet the needs of their ageing workforce, and few had put in place measures to help older workers cope with their health needs.
Nick Jeal, head of proposition and intelligence for Axa PPP said: “The abolition of the default retirement age and increasing age of the workforce means it is more important than ever for employers to take a strategic approach to managing the health and well-being of older workers.”
He agreed that many older employees would have long-term, multiple, lifestyle related problems such as diabetes, heart disease and musculoskeletal conditions. However, he added: “Healthcare funders are rising to the challenge of enabling employers to address this issue through the introduction of new approaches to managing the whole of their workforce.
“These range from awareness and prevention through to interventions to meet the needs of those who are absent with effective rehabilitation.”
10% of employers have brought in training for older workers
19% have modified roles
11% have seen increase in absence rates in older workforce
20% have cited rise in age-related conditions such as diabetes and arthritis
15% have refocused their health, well-being and absence initiatives to help these workers
Robert Harvey, senior protection adviser for Brighton-based insurance brokerage Drewberry, said: “This is a valid point. People who are in a job where they have group cover are more likely to stay with the employer.
“Sometimes, for older workers, group income protection insurance offered by an employer would be easier for them, rather than having to get their own individual cover on the open market.