It takes two: financial support for cancer in the workplace

A combination of Private Medical Insurance (PMI) and Group Critical Illness (GCI) cover can be a perfect fit for managing cancer in the workplace. Here’s how the two products can help deliver valuable financial support when an employee is diagnosed with cancer.

It takes two: financial support for cancer in the workplace

Cancer’s scale and UK employees

Cancer remains one of the UK’s major health concerns, but often it can be difficult to envisage its scale. The statistics show that 123,000 UK men and women of working age (16-64) are diagnosed with cancer each year(1). Of those working people, around 100,000 are employees(2). Unfortunately, that’s more than 1,900 employees a week and a tragic and depressing figure to bear in mind. Of course, employees want the right cancer treatment, as fast as they can get it, with minimal financial pressure. And that’s where the health and protection industry can help.

In our business, we frequently discuss how products can fit well together, like bangers and mash. Of course, they don’t necessarily have to go together, some people might not like or want them both, so they can still have only one if they want to.

Two products, one valuable outcome

For health and protection propositions, let’s consider the dynamic combination of PMI and GCI cover. PMI is a valuable employee benefit when it comes to accessing the right treatment for cancer. There are normally different levels of cover to choose from, but if an employee has access to this benefit they won’t have to wait long for treatment and will normally receive a high standard of care. In addition, there is the potential to be treated by drugs that are unavailable on the NHS. Insurers often provide access to their own oncology teams with case managers to help andsupport employees, from diagnosis through to treatment and aftercare.

With some small exceptions, PMI won’t provide employees with any additional financial support. One of the major worries for employees and their families during treatment and recovery following cancer is how they will manage financially. It’s possible that during this period the employee will need to leave the workplace and, if they are fortunate enough, that their employer will provide sick pay or group income protection, so a proportion of their salary will be protected. But for many employees, finances can be tight, adding financial pressure when it is needed the least. Unfortunately, cancer creates additional financial pressures: family visits which incur travel expenses; increased childcare costs; or a decline in household income as a spouse or partner works fewer hours.

This is where GCI comes in and combines perfectly alongside a Group PMI arrangement. GCI schemes can be employee funded through a flexible benefit arrangement or can be employer funded. They cover many cancer diagnoses (as well as other serious diagnosed illnesses or operations) and with an employer group arrangement, there is no medical underwriting for the employee, as the products normally work on a pre-existing condition exclusion basis. So even if there is a related medical condition or history, cover can still be provided for other illnesses.

Employees and the GCI tax-free lump sum

On diagnosis or after undergoing a specific operation, a tax-free lump sum payment is made directly to the employee. Many such arrangements also automatically include additional cover for children and options for spouse and partners and, like PMI, there are often added value services included that may include emotional support or second medical opinion services.

Aside from the day to day financial support that GCI can provide, one of the biggest uses of a lump sum payment is to clear all, or some of, a mortgage. Typically, this is one of the largest elements of personal borrowing, and following a devastating diagnosis and recovery period, being able to ease the future financial pressure on a household’s income by paying all or some of it off can be a huge source of comfort. Whatever the personal circumstances, the money can be used by the employee in whatever way suits them best.

Although a cancer diagnosis is terrible news at any time or place, it is worth providing some balance. Surviving cancer is generally higher in younger age groups, so the working age population is at a statistical advantage when it comes to successful rehabilitation. It is estimated that there are around 890,000 working age people living with cancer(1), and so following surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or other treatment, many people survive and return to work.

To sum up, the provision of PMI and GCI within an employee benefits package cannot be underestimated. When you think about employee benefits and how you want to look after your employees, think about bangers and mash and how well they go together.

The author is Julian Nurse, customer propositions manager, Group Protection, Aviva.

This article is provided by Aviva.


  1. Macmillan Cancer Support ‘In the UK, more than 123,000 people of working age are diagnosed with cancer each year. ‘Working age’ is people aged from 16 to 64. Source information reviewed November 2016.
  2. ONS Employment and labour market September 2019 123,000 working age people diagnosed (see source 1) . Of the working age population (27.67m paid employees, 4.93m self-employed) equates to 103,812 UK employees diagnosed with cancer each year.

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