Colin Fitzgerald, Distribution Director, Legal & General Group Protection, says Group Income Protection (GIP) market growth depends on all stakeholders working together, communicating to clients its evolved role in evidence-based return-to-work support, with ‘good work is beneficial for health’ as the north star.
It’s our view that if the Group Income Protection (GIP) industry is to achieve anything more than year-on-year incremental growth, we need to look at how we can help employers with their biggest employee absence challenges; balancing prevention (‘good work’) with cure (‘individual interventions’ and ‘good work’). This is about helping employers understand where group protection dovetails with wider wellbeing strategy and how, as part of that wider picture, it can have a quantifiable impact on productivity.
The tools and services are all in place. It’s now about changing the conversation.
Heading in the right direction
The most recent Swiss Re GroupWatch report says that the GIP market shows a 5.2% increase in the number of people insured. That’s just over 3 million working-age people in the UK now insured by GIP. That’s good news. But it still leaves a huge potential market opportunity, considering there are currently around 30.2 million payrolled employees in the UK.
Salary protection insurance – the core of GIP – does what it says on the tin. And I believe, it does it very well. But the employer need has evolved and, as an industry, we have a duty to evolve with it; to ensure we continually offer propositions that meet needs and offer fair value.
It’s fair to say that the area GIP is evolving alongside – namely wellbeing – is incredibly complex. It’s also incredibly important to business outcomes. Consequently, having everything in place – having the confidence that it’s all evidence based and with quantifiable outcomes – is key to having those all-important conversations with clients.
Conversations that start with value
There certainly seems to be a growing appetite to have conversations that start with value. For example, the 2022 Swiss Re GroupWatch report, in its short-term future-gazing section, quoted one intermediary as saying: “Covid has brought long term disability [insurance] to the attention of employers who had previously not thought of providing it as a benefit and the opportunities it offers for absence management”.
Another stated: “Employers have woken up to the benefits to them of providing income protection and are keen to tap into the insurer’s expertise and to ensure that their employees make full use of the embedded services available to them.”
The latest report – 2023 – reveals more on this gradual evolution in thinking and positioning. It’s telling that, for the first year, the report includes a dedicated ‘health and wellbeing’ section for industry expert views.
Some intermediaries commented that such health and wellbeing services really help with the messaging to clients and are now a key consideration when choosing a provider; adding that a key challenge now for the group risk market is to communicate and educate on the value of such services.
As I said earlier, further evolution of these all-important conversations depends on confidence in the evidence base and quantifiable outcomes.
The notion of quality provides a perfect segue to something else I’d like to mention; the fact that industry related social media has been dominated over recent weeks by debate on the findings of a research report from the University of Oxford Wellbeing Research Centre.
Good work is therapeutic and a goal in recovery
Evidence, evidence, evidence…if a mental wellbeing initiative isn’t evidence based, it’s probably got a limited lifespan. This message came across loud and clear across various media in January, on the back of key findings of a research paper that came out last year; but only recently published in an academic journal.
The research paper suggests that certain individual-level mental wellbeing interventions don’t work. It zoomed in on things like mindfulness, resilience training and wellbeing apps. It also concluded – and concurs with the likes of NICE and Stevenson Farmer – that more emphasis needs to be placed on organisational rather than individual change. In other words, more emphasis on nurturing a culture of good work, where the actual experience of work contributes positively to wellbeing.
They’re important findings and we welcome them. They support our own long-held view that we have a responsibility as an insurer to assess the evidence base when introducing any new wellbeing service.
Legal & General’s biopsychosocial (whole person) philosophy that informs our return-to-work support and services takes account of evidence from the World Health Organisation. It’s what guides our belief that mental wellbeing represents the bedrock of all other aspects of wellbeing; physical, financial and social. It’s also what guides our belief that ‘good work’ is beneficial and should be considered a goal in recovery, wherever appropriate.
It’s a philosophy that’s borne out in our consistently strong annual return to work outcomes. For example, last year we supported more than 9 in 10 employees, for whom we’d received mental health claims, to return to work within the deferred period of their GIP policy. This outcome is consistent each year for the past three years.
For more on good work is beneficial for health, take a look at our newly launched Chief Medical Officer report, the first in a series of reports focused on how protection – individual as well as group – can help enhance wellbeing outcomes for an even larger audience in the future.