The fact that the pandemic has accelerated a clear trend in the direction of employers seeking to demonstrate a corporate purpose and identity is good news for the group risk industry.
Generali UK Employee Benefits head of business development and marketing Tracey Ward says: “Corporate purpose, mission and values were already high on the agenda a few years earlier, but the pandemic has provided even more focus. Employees need to reflect this purpose in what they do and say, and how they are treated is an important part of this as ultimately the purpose will be reflected in how they act towards customers.”
Now that Covid-19 has significantly reduced the ‘It won’t happen to me’ barrier to sales, group risk products have never had a bigger part to play in this treatment, nor have their many added-value features — which extend to everything from employee assistance programmes (EAPs) to services offering virtual GP consultations, second medical opinions, health and wellness information and nurse-led care advice.
Group Risk Development (Grid) spokesperson Katharine Moxham says: “Employees have re-evaluated their lives during the last year and those working from home have largely seen the benefits of doing so whilst those not happy in old jobs are increasingly looking for new roles. So, employers are having to take this on board and give people benefits that help to support them, or they risk losing quality staff.
“Employers are looking to support employees in a way we haven’t seen for decades, and I think we will see a re-emergence of paternalism, which has been in short supply since the 1980s. The overwhelming feedback
from advisers I’ve spoken to during the pandemic has been that employers have worked hard to keep these benefits in place rather than cut back.”
Swiss Re’s Group Watch 2021 statistics certainly bear this out. During 2020 in-force group risk policies increased by 3.6 per cent – with group life enjoying a 4.1 per cent increase, group income protection a 1 per cent increase and group critical illness cover a 7.5 per cent increase. It would be no surprise if Group Watch 2022 in due course shows even greater progress.
Kerr Henderson has experienced an awakening of interest in group life, particularly from companies that previously had no cover or required a lengthy eligibility period, and has had clients in the medical sector asking for group income protection – because they found it hard to attract employees away from generous NHS benefits packages.
Problems with recruiting the right people has also seen a Kerr Henderson client in the hospitality sector take out private medical insurance for all its 500 staff, and another in the logistics sector has enquired about a benefits benchmarking exercise because it needs more lorry drivers.
LifeSearch reports a particular trend for employers to extend group income protection to the whole workforce rather than restrict it to more senior staff. Most of its new schemes are now taking this approach compared to only around half pre-pandemic.
LifeSearch head of business protection and group Alan Richardson says: “Covid helped to emphasise a clear division between the ‘have’s’ and ‘have nots’, and we are now finding employers are determined to bridge the gap by making benefits available to everyone. The pandemic has made employers aware of the need to celebrate they have a corporate identity and culture as it’s an important tool to bind employees together.”
Covid has also highlighted the importance of having a healthy workforce and of creating a level of resilience. Employees need wellness apps and good education on diet and lifestyle factors, and employers are seeing this more as their responsibility.
Barnett Waddingham consulting lead for health & risk Kevin O’Neill says: “With the growth of hybrid workplaces, we are finding clients have a split culture between those in and those out of the office. The big issue is managing the remote workers, who are most likely to have a loss of identity with the company.
“We are seeing employers starting to think of individuals as people rather than workers, so they are increasingly communicating and offering benefits that can be accessed remotely and even perks and shopping discounts now available on some group risk products. It’s all keeping a connection with employees and helping with the corporate identity.”
With so many different added-value features now available, often involving considerable overlap, the adviser’s role in this area has never been more crucial. They need to ensure they are offered in a joined-up way, that the employee experience is seamless and that the data is suitably analysed.
Breaking new ground
The desire to be perceived as having a caring corporate identity is also pushing the boundaries of innovation.
Traditionally, the menopause has been regarded as something of a taboo subject but, with around half of working women going through it without consulting a healthcare professional, employers are beginning to recognise the impact this can have on key talent.
Alistair Dornan, director of organisational wellbeing at Gallagher — which this September launched a Women’s Health Services proposition with HCA Healthcare that includes menopause support – says: “The UK lost nearly 1.5 million from the workplace in the last three years due to employers’ menopause inadequacy, so retaining women at the peak of their earning capacity and experience should be a high priority for UK corporates. But it’s only really within the last six months that I’ve seen it become an agenda item.”
A trend towards helping employers demonstrate their green credentials is also starting to emerge. Yulife members, thanks to a partnership with Earthly, can now use their footsteps to reduce their carbon footprint. Earthly will plant a mangrove tree in Madagascar for every 200 YuCoin donated via the Yulife app. Since the launch of the facility this October, over 400,000 YuCoin have been spent planting over 2,000 trees.
Zurich Corporate Risk also offers to plant 10 trees for every 100 members covered by one of its group risk schemes – via a tie-up with Tree-Nation. Employers receive the invitation to participate at no cost when schemes are on risk or at renewal and can download a certificate detailing the types of trees planted and their exact location within the Zurich forest.
Traditionally, once one or two group risk providers have successfully introduced a new concept, it hasn’t taken long for it to become a standard feature in the field. So, anyone able to see the wood from the trees will know where this one is heading.
Box: Ethical dimension boost value in YuLife
Kerr Henderson is finding that clients seeking to create a corporate identity are increasingly being attracted to Yulife, especially now that it has ticked the ethical box.
Amongst them is The Ozone Project, a fast-growing digital company based in London, which took out Yulife for all its 50 staff this October.
The Ozone Project chief people officer Nicola Moretti says: “As an input to our benefits programme, we ran a survey and found our workforce wanted benefits that supported their financial, mental and physical wellbeing.
“As part of its life and income protection insurance, Yulife offers an EAP to support mental wellbeing, and a fantastic interactive app to make healthy behaviours fun through gamification techniques. We especially love the healthy competition and company buzz around the steps leaderboard – it’s great fun!”