` REBA’s Inside Track: government backs group risk insurance as a ‘valuable source of support’ | Reward and Employee Benefits Association (REBA)
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19 Aug 2021
by Dawn Lewis

REBA’s Inside Track: government backs group risk insurance as a ‘valuable source of support’

It’s more than two years since the government launched its Health is Everyone’s Business consultation. At the time, no one could have imagined just how timely and much needed this study was going to be, as we now emerge from a pandemic with a renewed focus on health and wellbeing.

 

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The consultation considered how go­vernment and employers can take action to reduce ill health-related job loss, particularly for disabled people and those with long-term health conditions. It explored changes to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), Occupational Health (OH), information and advice, and employer guidance.

Central to the government’s response is the desire “to see employers creating healthier workplaces and offering the right support to their staff”.

Where does group risk insurance fit?

The consultation did not focus on the provision of employee benefits. As stated above, the main aims were around improving OH services and the guidance employers receive about health and wellbeing. However, the consultation received several responses about the importance of insurance products, such as group income protection (GIP), as another way of supporting employees’ health and wellbeing.

Within the government’s response, the benefits of GIP were acknowledged, as was work the insurance industry has been undertaking to advance the offer for employers, such as developments in the provision in digital services.

“The government agrees that, where policies are accompanied by high quality services aimed at preventing ill health and offering support to return an employee to work, insurance products are a valuable source of support, in addition to offering a financial benefit if an employee is unable to work due to illness or injury.”

This positive endorsement was reinforced by the government’s pledge to support the creation of a ‘consensus statement’, which was put forward by Group Risk Development (GRiD), as a way to enhance employer guidance and improve awareness of the link between good work and good health. The statement will also promote the use of expert-led support services to prevent and manage sickness absence.

Finally, the government also stated that it would work with the industry to improve awareness among employers of the benefits protection policies can provide.

The broader impact on employers’ health and wellbeing programmes

The government’s response highlights: “Employers who invest in the health and wellbeing of their workforce benefit from reduced sickness absence, increased productivity and improved workplace retention. Employees benefit from a supportive environment in which they can thrive and perform at their best.”

I’ve seen few other government documents that have so clearly and strongly supported and endorsed the need for workplace health and wellbeing.

Going forward, the government’s response outlined three areas where it is keen to make progress to prevent ill health-related job losses.

  1. It will proceed with measures to help employers better navigate the work and health system, including enhancing resources to support Covid-19 returns to work and developing a national information and advice service for health, work and disability.
  2. It will consider measures to raise awareness and understanding around existing rights and responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010, and has asked the Health and Safety Executive to develop non-statutory guidance to support disabled people and people with long-term health conditions to remain in work.
  3. It will reform the OH market and improve employer access to high-quality OH support by testing a potential new OH subsidy; it will also explore how it can support the development of innovative OH services, and the merits and form of a potential new Centre for Work and Health Research to support continuous research and development.

There will be no immediate change to SSP, with the government noting that the consultation posed several important questions on the future of the benefit which require further consideration.

Wellbeing is, without doubt, now recognised as a sound business strategy. Employee benefits, particularly those that support and prevent ill-health, will have a central role to play in the years ahead as employers seek to create positive and healthy workplace cultures.

These workplace shifts, coupled with the government’s commitment to work with employers and other key stakeholders, will see disabled people and those with long term health conditions stand a better chance at thriving at work than ever before.  

Join us live and in-person at the Employee Wellbeing Congress on 30 September to learn more about the evolution of workplace wellbeing, and why more employers are prioritising wellbeing for future success.

The author is Dawn Lewis, content editor at REBA.

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