Occupational hazard

Occupational hazard

Rehabilitation services have become a common feature of the group income protection (IP) market, helping employees access the appropriate treatment and support to enable a speedier recovery and return to work.

But, with these services used to a much lesser extent in the individual IP market, it could be worth making them a more prominent part of the product proposition.

In the group market, these rehabilitation services take many forms. Typically run by a case manager, often with a nursing or vocational rehabilitation background, they will seek to understand the nature of the employee’s condition and find ways to help them return to work.

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This could be through treatment, with the insurer looking to source necessary interventions through other employee benefits, such as private medical insurance or counselling on the employee assistance programme; the NHS; or, in some instances, funding it on behalf of the employee.

The case manager will also work with the employee and their employer to resolve any workplace issues that may be contributing to the absence and, where appropriate, help them agree a return to work plan.

In some cases, they may also recommend adjustments to the employee’s duties or role to enable them to return to work. This could include working reduced hours or returning to a less stressful role within the organisation.

Early start

Early intervention is often key to the success of rehabilitation. “The earlier someone can start focusing on a return to work the better,” explains Paul Avis, marketing director at Canada Life Group Insurance. “After as little as four weeks’ absence an employee can begin to disengage with the workplace, making a return to work much less likely.”

This is demonstrated by claims figures from Canada Life. Without any intervention, 80 per cent of its mental health claims lasted for two years or more. But where the insurer was able to provide support at an early point in the illness, 80 per cent of claims lasted less than seven months.

Further, in some instances, early intervention prevented claims altogether. The insurer found that 86 per cent of the cases that were referred to it within the first few weeks of absence did not result in a claim. Although some were spurious claims, the majority of those that did not reach the end of the deferred period were resolved by the case manager, enabling the employee to return to work.

Benefits for all

This approach brings benefits for all parties. Although the insurer may find itself dealing with cases that might never become claims, by working in this way the length – and cost – of claims can be significantly reduced.

The employer and employee also benefit. The employee can enjoy the financial benefits of being employed while, for the employer, they are able to retain an experienced member of staff but also realise savings on temporary cover and the recruitment costs they may have incurred if the individual had been unable to return. Roy McLoughlin, partner at Master Adviser, is a big fan of rehabilitation. “Everyone loves it,” he says. “HR people have so many responsibilities around employee health and especially stress and mental health. They really appreciate being able to turn to an insurer for this support.”