Many employers are engaged with the challenge of meeting the needs of several generations in the same workplace but some benefits are relevant across the workforce, regardless of age, role or salary.
Death, illness, accident and disability are mostly random and can happen to anyone at any time. So, no one should really be without a way to protect their own financial stability and that of their family - especially if savings are sparse.
The need to protect financial stability may not always appeal right across the workforce. Nevertheless, it is a necessity of life that can easily be overlooked in the quest to offer a package that differentiates the needs of each segment of the workforce.
Consider the case of a young unmarried person who might think there is no need to take up a flex choice for life assurance but forgets that their parents or partner will have to meet their funeral costs and might also have to continue to pay their share of the rent after their death. Or the worker who still thinks “the State will provide” if they become long-term sick.
Consider too the 2.5 million people currently living with cancer in the UK, many of whom will have run out of sick pay because they have exhausted their employer’s provision or they don’t have income protection.
Provided in isolation or as part of a wider benefits package, group risk benefits (employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness) can give employees access to financial protection cover they might not be able to afford or access for themselves.
Clearly, people do have different needs throughout their working lives but the need for income is paramount and it’s imperative that every person can protect their income, whatever their generation. Group Income Protection is very important in achieving that goal. This is as relevant for younger generations (that may not have had a chance to build savings and need to meet rent or mortgage payments if they’re unable to work) as it is for older generations (that will have many demands on their income from children to car loans to mortgages to elder care and savings for retirement).
Younger generations may not always see the value of Group Life Assurance – sometimes referred to as Death in Service. Some employers take the view that this is more important for people who have financial dependants but it is far too easy to overlook the fact that funeral poverty is becoming a shocking reality for more and more people in the UK. Perhaps younger employees may not need as much in the way of life assurance as others but they almost certainly need a basic level in order to at least mitigate the unexpected costs their family will face in the event of their loved one’s death.
Cancer is the top cause of claim across all three group risk products and Group Critical Illness provision can be a godsend to anyone diagnosed with this potentially devastating disease. A Group Critical Illness pay-out can supplement sick pay or perhaps go towards additional costs faced by the employee (such as home modifications or private therapeutic care). It can even be used to fund treatment. Again, as an industry we know only too well that cancer is oblivious to age and position and will strike any generation without favour. Many schemes also extend critical illness protection to partners and spouses at an extra cost and include dependent children at no extra cost.
As well as providing financial protection, today's group risk proposition focuses as much on prevention, early intervention and support as it does on paying claims and includes added value support services designed to complement employers’ health and wellbeing strategies and to give value on a daily basis to all sectors of the workforce.
Each provider will offer a blend of different services but, generally, insured group risk products offer support such as Employee Assistance Programmes, HR and legal advice, second medical opinion services, online health assessments, mental health first aid training, absence management, occupational rehabilitation and fast track access to counselling and physiotherapy.
Increasingly, employers are recognising the value to their business of having a healthy and resilient workforce across all generations. Alongside this, group risk protection support is evolving to encompass greater help for employers in managing the health and wellbeing of their workforce and encouraging better health behaviours.
These added-value services are usually offered at no additional charge and give employers the opportunity to make a saving (often significant) on comparable stand-alone services they might already have in place or be considering in the future, releasing money to spend elsewhere. What’s more, the services can be used every single day - even if a claim is never made.
Death or disability can have a life-changing impact on staff and their families irrespective of age or position. Educating staff and facilitating affordable financial protection cover not only supports employees, but makes a huge difference to morale, staff retention and productivity, all key business benefits.
Group risk protection benefits cross all boundaries as a relevant and valued way to ensure that everyone in the company can be certain that their household finances are protected if the worst happens. Employers would do well to consider these when looking to choose benefits that will be valued across a multi-generational workforce.
By Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for Group Risk Development (GRiD)