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Early intervention and rehabilitation services are now helping to return more than one in four employees back to work

Back on track

Many employers will be aware that group income protection can be extremely effective in helping to manage long-term sickness and the associated costs. Some employers, however, may not be aware of the value that insurers add beyond the pure payment of claims.

In some cases, employees are helped back to work before a claim becomes payable, often with the support of the insurer, the employer or both.

Group Risk Development (GRiD), the industry body for the group risk protection sector, has recorded the number of cases in which the insurer supported a return to work with some sort of active early intervention, such as fast-track access to counselling or physiotherapy, before that person was eligible for a monetary payment.

The data shows that 27% of those who received support through early intervention were returned to work without triggering a claim. This compares to 25% in 2015, and just 20% in 2014. In total, 2,289 people were able to go back to work during 2016 because of such intervention.

By offering workers access to such professional counselling, practical advice and support, including for issues such as debt management, relationship problems or health matters, insurers can often significantly reduce the length of sickness absence and the impact on an organisation.

Sadly, however, a return to work is not always possible. When a member of staff is off work for an extended period, group income protection can help to relieve money worries by paying out a proportion of the employee’s salary. The benefit is paid to the business and then passed on to the employee through the PAYE system.

At present, employers must provide statutory sick pay for up to 28 weeks to any employee off work sick. After the statutory sick pay period expires, SMEs are unlikely to provide financial support to an absent employee, although some SMEs will still want to continue paying out a portion of the employee’s salary. Group income protection can help reduce the considerable financial costs the business would incur as a result of paying it unaided.

Group income protection paid out a total of £358.7 million in 2016, an increase of £11.7 million compared to 2015 – the average claim was £24,740 per annum.

“These figures give insight into the fantastic contribution of employer-sponsored group risk protection benefits in supporting people when they need it most,” says Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD. “These policies pay out in dreadful circumstances for employees and their families. It’s excellent to be able to quantify the extent of the support we give as an industry through publishing these figures.”

“It’s very affordable for employers to make a difference, but GRiD’s research regularly indicates that the cost of these benefits is overestimated or [that] businesses don’t appreciate how much is included, which could also actually save them money elsewhere,” says Moxham.

Indeed, GriD suggests that savings could include not having to invest separately in a standalone employee assistance programme, or to pay for legal advice.

“Employer-sponsored group risk financial protection cover is very good value. Basic level group life cover can be provided for around 0.5% of payroll, while a more comprehensive package – including group life and group income protection benefits – typically costs less than 2% of payroll. There are few other benefits that cost just a few pounds a month per employee but can pay out thousands of pounds (or even millions) and that really make the difference between a family surviving financially or not.”

​Your St. James’s Place Partner will be able to advise you on which of our panel providers you would need to be referred to, given your particular requirements for further advice in this area.

Where the opinions of third parties are offered, these may not necessarily reflect those of St. James’s Place.