Advisers have been urged to help their corporate clients make the most of the benefits and support packages attached to group insurance policies.
As the Office for National Statistics' latest mortality analysis showed deaths registered from January to November 2020 rose by 68,378 in England and Wales, the head of specialist for Towergate Health and Protection said workplaces must put health and wellbeing benefits at "the front and centre" of their agendas.
Citing the 550,555 death toll figure over the period, Debra Clark said employers needed to respond to these changes and adapt benefits to meet these evolving needs and concerns in the coming year.
Ms Clark said: "Offering health and wellbeing benefits can no longer be a tick-box exercise, it must be front and centre of corporate agendas.
"Now is the time for employers to act to ensure their benefits are current, relevant and addressing the very real concerns of their employees."
When looking at how best to support employees during 2021, particularly as many will be feeling vulnerable, employers must think of ways to maximise the benefits attached to group risk and insurance policies.
She said: "Some employees will be concerned over future finances. Reports in the media of ongoing furlough, reduced hours and redundancies will only fuel such worries. Consequently, there is increased interest in benefits that protect employees’ finances."
However, it is important that employers engage better with their employees, not only regarding benefits, but also to keep in touch with staff to support their physical and mental health.
Advisers can help their clients with the information needed to allow companies to communicate better.
Ms Clark gave the following tips:
Focus on prevention: Consider providing access to educational programmes including webinars and health tips; more tangible lifestyle and fitness support, such as exercise classes; healthy eating plans and cycle to work schemes; and literal preventative measures, such as flu vaccinations.
Extend benefits: Consider benefits for remote and part-time workers as staff diversify in terms of their work patterns and locations. Benefits must match the flexibility of the roles now in place. Moreover, while some
benefits may have been for senior levels only, employers should expand health and wellbeing benefits to the wider workforce.
Personalise provision: Solutions that are varied and flexible will provide the best fit for each individual. Health and wellbeing benefits often come with added-value options that include personalised programmes such as hubs and apps, where individuals can enter data each day regarding how they feel physically and/or emotionally.
Protect finances: Group risk products will appeal, providing financial, emotional and practical support at times of ill-health, disability or in the event of death, all of which support employees and/or their families in difficult times.
Communicate better: Regular contact with colleagues helps to maintain both morale and focus. Support for emotional wellbeing can be made available in the form of access to specialist mental health support, personalised hubs, or employee assistance programmes. Online benefits platforms allow employers to administer and promote benefits in one place, they help gain maximum engagement and make educational and support services easily available.