Protection 

Advisers fail to explain protection support services

 

Corporate clients could lose valued staff and money because advisers have not communicated the value of the support services embedded in group protection policies, a specialist has warned.

David Shearman, employee assistance programme expert for wellness specialist Lifeworks, said there has been a shift in the types of claims groups insurers have seen in recent years, from illnesses such as cancer to claims for mental health and psychological issues.

With approximately one in five staff members likely to be off work with stress or long-term mental health issues, he said it was important advisers help their corporate clients not only provide protection policies to help staff financially, but also communicate the associated benefits that are built into many policies. 

Lifeworks, which offers personalised, independent and confidential assistance to employees through an app and phone service, can help employees with any issues they might be facing, from bereavement to financial difficulty or even stress as a result of bullying.

He told FTAdviser the use of employee assistance programmes (EAPs) can help keep employees healthy, well and at work instead of them being left to fend for themselves and ending up taking long-term absence through sickness.

However, he stated too often the EAP was "the best-kept secret" within group policies, and more needed to be done to promote it. 

Mr Shearman said: "We have worked within the group income protection market for approximately 10 years now.

"It isn't a marketing gimmick, that if [an employer] buys a group income protection policy it gets this embedded EAP service as part of it.

"It is seen as a freebie and if you attach the word 'free' to a service, it can devalue the service that it offers. But we believe advisers need to drive more of the value that EAPs can provide to their clients."

He explained the reason why Unum and Canada Life have been using Lifeworks was not to just attach a "freebie" to the policy but to help prevent long-term sickness and the cost to business this can entail.

Mr Shearman said: "The reason [we started working with Unum] was that Unum had seen a massive increase in the types of claims they were seeing for long-term sickness.

"There was a significant shift from the typical things you would associate with absence from the workplace, such as musculoskeletal or cancer, to mental and psychological issues.

"Today, approximately 40 per cent of Unum's claims received for long-term sickness is for mental and psychological health, so the whole idea of embedding the EAP into the insurance benefit is to help catch the employee at an earlier stage in their illness, and provide them with the help and support they need to keep them in work.

"The aim is to keep them healthy, productive and engage with them, so they do not go to long-term sickness."