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Tales of the unexpected

Katharine Moxham

We all expect our insurance policies to pay out when we need them and group risk (employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness) is no exception to this, but do you know what else they do? From Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for Group Risk Development (GRiD).

Group risk benefits are often viewed as an employee benefits staple and are associated with catastrophic life events (illness, accident, disability and death) but they can and do provide everyday help to HR, line managers, business owners and employees in many unexpected ways. 

Everyday help
Group risk providers recognise that having to make a claim is not an everyday occurrence so have worked hard to offer daily value by including other support within the products. For employees, these can include an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), preventative support, fast-track access to counselling or physio, early absence interventions, a second medical opinion and more. For employers, support can include HR and employment law advice, legal document-writing systems, absence management, telephone support for difficult situations, mediation and others. Group risk support is also moving forward to include help in encouraging better health behaviours, for example giving access to GP services, health tracking apps and mental health support for staff.

What does this mean in practice though?
EAPs are often associated with crisis and are superb in supporting and signposting people to the help that they need in those circumstances. But they can also help with other distractions that can hinder productivity – like moving home, a child being bullied at school or finding elder care. They can help line managers too with guidance on supporting people through situations they may not have previously encountered – maybe a dispute in the office, spotting signs of mental illness or supporting someone through a cancer diagnosis. The HR support services that might come along with a group risk policy can be invaluable to both experienced HR practitioners (who might just want to double check something) and to businesses that don’t have an in-house HR function.

The benefits of early intervention
Last year, 2,289* people were helped back to work with active early intervention support from a group risk insurer. This might have been fast-track access to counselling or physiotherapy – or even treatment as Lucy’s story below demonstrates. Or it might have been liaison and mediation as in Tim’s story. Or, it might even have been an extraordinary ex-gratia payment as in Molly’s story. No one size fits all – people’s needs are met when they are treated as individuals and these stories illustrate the very real difference that group risk makes to peoples’ lives day in and day out. 

Real-life case-studies 

Lucy’s story
Lucy’s employer referred her for early intervention under their group income protection policy because she was absent from work due to a social phobia exacerbated by having visible red blood vessels on her face. She had tried various treatments, which hadn’t worked, and she felt too self-conscious to go to work. 

With the agreement of Lucy’s GP, the insurer arranged for her to see a dermatologist, who recommended laser surgery which was only available privately. The insurer paid for a course of three laser treatments and Lucy returned to work part-time three weeks after the treatment.  She was delighted with the results and felt confident enough to go out, meet friends and get back to normal.

Tim’s story
Tim struggled to cope at work as he was a perfectionist and was being encouraged to cut corners to get the work done more quickly. This led to his mental health deteriorating, him being unable to function or think rationally, and having to take time off work.

The group income protection insurer’s claims consultant encouraged Tim to seek medication, to challenge his beliefs about work, and to access some CBT through his Private Medical Insurance policy. At the same time, the claims consultant liaised with Tim’s employer to highlight the specific workplace issues and discuss possible alternative job roles within the company. The claims consultant’s regular contact with Tim to help keep his focus on the end goal, and liaison with his employer led to Tim being offered an alternative position within the company that suited his personality better. He successfully returned to work without needing to make a claim under his employer’s group income protection policy.

Molly’s story
Molly put forward a claim under her employer’s group income protection policy because she had been absent from work after members of her family had been in a horrific accident in which her four-year-old daughter was killed and her mother suffered life-changing injuries. Before the accident, Molly’s mother had looked after Molly’s children each day while Molly was at work.

Although Molly’s GP confirmed that Molly was not suffering from an illness or injury which would prevent her from working in her usual role, the insurer acknowledged that the circumstances of Molly’s absence were extreme. She had suffered a bereavement, was without childcare for her other children due to her mother’s serious injuries, and also had to take time off work due to circumstances beyond her control, including going to meetings with a homicide case manager. The insurer therefore felt it was appropriate, under such extreme circumstances, to support Molly and her employer whilst the legal process relating to the accident progressed. The insurer therefore paid an ex-gratia lump sum equivalent to six months benefit as a gesture of goodwill.

These are just three stories – last year, the industry helped over 27,000* people and families through paying claims or making an active early intervention – not to mention the countless others who accessed help and support through their EAP, or a second medical opinion service or help in making changes to a healthier lifestyle.

Group risk benefits have evolved beyond just a cheque, and support people in all sorts of different ways – so effective use of this support is key for businesses wanting to position themselves as a caring organisation and reap the benefits of better supporting their people.

*Group Risk Development (GRiD) Claims Survey 2017

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