Now, more than ever, we need to be putting focus on our health. I think we can all agree that we are very lucky to have the NHS who we can rely on for free healthcare when we need it. However, there are certain healthcare elements which we don’t have free access to, dental treatment and eyecare being two examples.

For many people the pandemic has meant that the purse strings are understandably a little tighter at the moment, so there is a risk that people are putting off these essential healthcare needs due to costs.

Many of the employee benefits in our industry can only be claimed against if somebody falls ill, gets injured, or worse. A Health Cash Plan is a great benefit for employers to provide to their staff, as it allows you to claim back money towards the cost of essential healthcare and it can be used by everyone. Yes, Dental and Optical benefits tend to be the most utilised however, there a number of excellent benefits included within a Health Cash Plan. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you can expect to see cover for the following:

  • Consultations and diagnostics tests
  • Physiotherapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic
  • Homeopathy
  • Reflexology
  • Chiropody
  • Prescriptions
  • Health assessments

Each benefit has an annual monetary allowance which can be claimed, and different levels of cover are available depending on the requirements of an employer. Insured employees can add family members to their plans and cover for children is often provided for free.

Claiming under these plans is very simple. You pay for the treatment yourself, provide the insurer with a copy of your receipt, usually uploaded via a mobile app, and you then get reimbursed with the funds hitting your bank account in around 3-5 working days.

As well as the ‘core’ benefits, many Health Cash Plan providers provide a range of extra benefits at no additional cost. These can include:

  • Retail discounts
  • Virtual GP access
  • Gym discounts
  • 24/7 health and stress helpline
  • Second medical opinion service

Health Cash Plan really are an excellent addition to an employer’s employee benefits package, and health and wellbeing strategy. Everyone can make use of the benefits available and with costs starting from around £1 per employee per week, they offer great value for money.

If you’d like to discuss the benefits of implementing a Health Cash Plan for your staff please do get in touch.

Motivating employees to improve their health

Offering employees access to health-related benefits and supporting their promotion through our member engagement services will help deliver success through reduced absence, and increased productivity.

Investing in preventative health benefits

The traditional comprehensive private healthcare provision is increasingly being replaced by more relevant, flexible and valued healthcare benefits which employees access more regularly to enhance their wellbeing.

Support for your employees in the event of the unexpected

Life assurance and income protection are the cornerstone of many benefit programmes and provide employees with the peace of mind that should they fall ill or die, their families will receive financial protection.

Freddie Flintoff recently publicised his struggle with bulimia. Jesy Nelson from Little Mix has been open about dealing with poor mental health. ‘The Rock’ Dwayne Johnson has talked about his feelings of isolation when dealing with depression.

When such public figures talk about how poor mental health has affected them, it demonstrates that no-one is immune. Research from mental health charity Mind shows that one in four people will experience a mental health problem each year.

Of course, it’s not just the individual that’s affected, it can also affect those around them: their family, loved ones, colleagues and employers.

Effect on the business

It’s no surprise then that mental health has been rising up the corporate agenda. The Health and Safety Executive reported that work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 54% of working days lost in 2018/19.

The recent pandemic will exacerbate matters for many, with uncertainty, restrictions on socialising, and being isolated from colleagues all causing anxiety; and the effects will be very much felt by employers.

Employer responsibility

Forward-thinking employers have embraced this challenge, and the majority now see it as their responsibility to support the mental health of their workforce: 75% of employers, according to research from GRiD, the industry body for the group risk industry.

It’s not entirely altruistic, the same research showed that 81% of employers saw it as good for their business to support the mental wellbeing of staff. Not only did it help them reduce the length and number of absences and mean quicker returns to work, it also increased productivity.

Employers also said the very act of having a policy in place to support mental wellbeing demonstrated the company cares for staff which increases loyalty, engagement, recruitment and retention.

This is backed up by what employees say too. Research by Legal & General showed that only 29% of employees would stay with their present employer if they were offered the same job with a competitor who offered comprehensive mental health support.

So the business case for supporting mental wellbeing is clear.

Support exists

It’s all very well employers taking responsibility, but it can be a challenge to know what that looks like in practice. A challenge increased by the fact that it isn’t always evident who might need help. As the cases of high-profile celebrities demonstrate, people can be adept at seemingly being fine.

The good news is, there are a lot of solutions available for employers to offer help. Providers continually enhance their propositions, and support is wide and comprehensive, covering a myriad of issues.

Specialists can be on hand to provide help for serious concerns from gambling and addictions to post traumatic stress disorder.

Access to 24/7 helplines can be provided, offering employees support on matters from work-related stress to dealing with neighbour disputes.

Professional counselling can be provided, and even in-patient care when needed. Help can also be extended to dependants.

Support can be standalone, or as part of company healthcare or protection policies. It’s also quite possible that many companies have access to such benefits within existing schemes they already have in place without realising.

So many schemes include access to mental health support, and employers are unaware. So it’s vital that businesses review what they have, so they – and their employees – can utilise it.

It’s also important to remember not all support is the same. Some schemes offer a light touch, limited service, others are more comprehensive. So it’s important to know what’s really included, how it compares, and – most importantly – what’s going to be of most benefit to your particular company and workforce.

Lockdown is challenging in so many ways but it really has made me realise how important it is to keep active. We sit when we work, we sit when we drive a car, we sit when we get on public transport, we sit when we watch tv, the list goes on. I listened to a webinar recently where the speakers likened lack of movement to be the new smoking, which was really thought provoking and highlighted the importance of this topic. Whilst everyone is aware of how bad smoking is for our health, inactivity is also a big issue and not getting enough exercise can lead to a host of health problems both physically and mentally.

I know plenty of people are very active and I see social media posts about 10 mile runs at 5am (I wish I was that disciplined!!) There are however many of us who don’t move nearly enough, which has a huge impact on both our physical and mental health and wellbeing. The diagram below (taken from Gov.uk) was uploaded in October 2019, so prior to the pandemic. However, it illustrates the benefits physical activity has on our health and the figures are powerful to say the least:

Source: Public Health England

Let’s face it, the modern world doesn’t encourage us to be mobile and it’s all about convenience (drive throughs, online food delivery etc). During lockdown, we need to be more creative about activity. Below are some suggestions on how to get yourself moving more:

Stand up

Since you are stuck in the four walls of home even for work, make sure you try and do it standing up. You burn on average of 50 calories more per hour by standing. If you stand for 3 hours per day, five days per week, it adds up to 750 calories burned. In a year that adds up to 30,000 calories, which is almost 9 pounds. This is the equivalent of around 10 marathons per year!!

Place your laptop on a high table and stand for a while as you do your work. Take a work conference call whilst walking around the house, and make sure you take regular breaks away from your screen. The more you stand the more activity your body gets.

Work out

Gyms may be closed but we have so there are so many other ways we can keep fit. Whether it’s walking, running, or trying out one of the many workout videos which are being posted online. Try and find a routine that suits you best and dedicate at least 20 to 30 minutes daily to exercise.

Set realistic goals

Don’t throw yourself straight into a 10 mile run if you haven’t been running in a couple of years, start smaller and then work your way up.

Stretch

We can all do simple stretch and rotation movements in our homes or outside, to make sure we keep mobile. This, alongside being active, will help reduce the risk of back problems, shoulder pain, neck issues, headaches, not to mention our mental wellbeing.

Being more active during my working week is certainly one of my new year’s resolutions. This has never been more important, given the difficult times were are all currently going through.

If you would like to discuss this topic further, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Undoubtedly, the coronavirus pandemic has caused real disruption to the Private Healthcare industry. Back in March/April there was concern that the NHS could be overwhelmed by the number of COVID-19 related hospital admissions. In order to prepare for the huge strain on health services, the government needed to maximise the number of beds that can offer ventilation and intensive support, and the available healthcare professionals who can help. The NHS therefore enlisted the help of the private sector to help the national effort to fight the virus.

We feel at this time of national crisis this approach was right, and the responsible response to an unprecedented situation to help the nation fight the virus.  This however has had an impact on those with private medical insurance.

What impact has this had on private medical insurance?

The pandemic has led to a drop in privately funded care as non-urgent elective procedures have been subject to postponement. This means there have been a proportion of customer claims which have been temporarily deferred. Insurance providers have continued to authorise treatment to ensure treatment can be accessed as quickly as possible when services return to some sort of normality.

What benefits have remained in place throughout the pandemic?

Urgent and time-critical care, such as cancer treatment, has still been treated as a matter of priority. Virtual and 24 hour telephone services have also been available through many insurers, enabling members access to care through GP’s, musculoskeletal (bone, joint, and muscle) clinicians and mental health practitioners, all from the comfort and safety of their homes.

What have insurers done to help support customers?

The market has responded to the challenges the pandemic has brought about. This has varied between insurers but below are some examples of how they have supported their customers and members:

  • Premium payment deferrals and discounts for those who in financial hardship
  • Excess waivers for those who have had treatment delayed, which has resulted in the start of a new policy year whereby a new excess would usually apply
  • Enhancement of virtual/digital services to support health and wellbeing
  • Specific COVID-19 cashback benefit for members who require a hospital stay due to coronavirus

The market has stated that they are not looking to profit from the pandemic. Some providers have spoken about premium rebates/cash back, though this is not likely to materialise until next year when the impact of COVID-19 becomes clearer.

What is the current position?

Thankfully, the NHS have not been overwhelmed to date and this has resulted in some facilities being returned to the private sector. Whilst things are certainly not back to ‘normal’, some non-urgent elective procedures are now taking place. Therefore, private medical insurance policies are starting to see more claims being put through though it is interesting to note that the UK is seeing people defer treatment due to a lack of confidence, as a result of COVID-19.

As it is so important for some people to get treatment, especially for serious conditions such as cancer, If anyone holding private medical insurance needs to make a claim, they should call the insurer’s claims team and they will be able to confirm treatment availability and discuss options.

The situation has developed constantly over the last few months and no doubt will continue to do so over the coming months. I will certainly be keeping a close eye on developments and if you would like to discuss this topic in more detail, please do get in touch.

You’d be forgiven for assuming that income protection is a benefit people need later in life when age-related illnesses and conditions become more common. However, this really is a benefit which should also be valued by younger members of your workforce. More and more people in their 30s are making claims for Income Protection benefits. Cover protects your employees if they are unable to work due to a physical condition but benefit will also be paid for employees who suffer with mental health conditions. Mental health is the second most common cause of income protection claims which may go some way to help explain the increase in claims for those in their 30s.

 

Lifestyle events also often prompt people to think about what cover and protection they have in place. Examples of events which may result in somebody valuing benefits like income protection would be buying a property, having a child or getting married.

Buying a property: When purchasing a property, it is of utmost importance for somebody to protect their home and the ability to make monthly mortgage payments, in the event of being unable to work. Income protection cover provides a replacement monthly income if your employee is unable to work because of long-term illness or injury.

Income protection should by no means be classed as a ‘sick pay’ policy. In addition to the financial benefits, the majority of income protection providers promote early intervention services and rehabilitation support services. This may include access to counselling or physiotherapy to help employees recover and return to work if appropriate.

It’s not only house buyers who need protection. If you’re renting and unable to work through illness or injury, bills still need to be paid if a tenant wants to remain in their property.

Having a child: Starting a family, or extending an existing one, is a very exciting time. However, this means your employees will have dependants relying on their income for them to be looked after. What would happen if an employee’s life was turned upside down by illness or injury? Income protection can help to provide financial support for those affected by illness or injury.

Getting married: Marriage is another event which can urge employees to consider income protection cover. Consider when partners are dependent on each other for splitting financial commitments such as mortgage payments. If one were to be hit by unexpected illness or injury, having protection in place could mean the difference between keeping their home or having to sell up and move.

 

Your younger staff may not fully recognise the benefit of employee protection benefits until they reach some of these milestones in their lives.

 

What should companies do to help all employees recognise the full benefit of a group Income Protection scheme?

  • Identify all additional benefits: Most income protection schemes will include additional ancillary benefits which are included free of charge. These may include an Employee Assistance Programme and Early Intervention and Rehabilitation services.
  • Promote these benefits to your staff: Regularly remind your staff of the additional benefits they have access to. Counselling services are available through an Employee Assistance Programme and promotion of these services is key to driving engagement
  • Review your employee benefits package: If you don’t have cover in place already, introducing policies such as income protection will provide your employees with vital support when they need it the most

 

We can carry out a free no obligation review of your employee benefits package. If you would like to find out more, please do not hesitate to get in touch with your usual contact or at:

@: info@wingatebs.com

T: 01883 332260

Throughout my time in the Employee Benefits industry, I have been asked to carry out countless reviews on the structure of some Group Risk policies (typically Group Life Assurance and Group Income Protection) with a view to providing feedback on potential issues or risks that may exist for the Employer. On the whole, I can say that over 60-70% of these reviews confirmed the job the employer or their advisers are doing is good and only very small tweaks or changes to policy structures and/or wordings are recommended.

However, some reviews have highlighted gaping holes in cover and as such huge potential liabilities sitting with the employer, without them knowing! An example of such areas of risk are:

Removal of the default retirement age

In 2011, it became unlawful for an employee to ‘retire’ a member of staff based on age alone. Gone are the days where a member of staff reaches age 65, receives a carriage clock from their employer and spends the rest of their days playing golf or bridge. Employees tend to look for a better work/life balance and therefore may choose to reduce hours to facilitate these wishes whilst remaining employed, as they want to remain occupied and keep their mind busy. This is certainly the case for my 70-year-old Mum.

Even now we review many Group Life Assurance (Death In Service) policies that still cease at age 65 which based on current trends is not suitable as many employees continue to work into their late 60’s or early 70’s. It is highly likely that a company’s employee life assurance benefit is referred to in an employment contract or staff handbook and therefore if an employee were to pass away post age 65 then without the existing policy having been amended to reflect the aforementioned change, the employer could be looking at a potentially crippling liability.

The good news is that an Employer does not have to insure an employee indefinitely, but they should ensure that their policy (and subsequently reflected in any contract/handbook) are amended to cease at for example, ‘State Pension Age (SPA) or age 70, whichever is the latter’.

How does your policy and employee documentation read?

Group Life Trust set up

Although many employers have Group Life Assurance (Death in Service) policies, it is rare they are ever called upon. That doesn’t mean to say an employer shouldn’t consider what would happen in the event of a claim and have a process in place to ensure it can receive the benefits and pay on to the deceased employee’s loved ones in a timely manner. The last thing you would want is to provide such a valuable benefit then see delays in this being paid which results in more anguish and upset for the deceased’s beneficiaries.

Many employers shy away from or simply neglect to consider their responsibilities in this area, as understandably, they do not want to tempt fate, but they are also probably unaware of the information and facilities required in order for a claim to be processed quickly and efficiently by an insurer. The following questions may test your ‘readiness’ for such a claim:

*Is your scheme in a Master Trust or do you own our own trust?

*Where is your trust deed?

*Who are your scheme’s trustees?

*Who is your scheme administrator?

*Do you have a trustee bank account ? If not, do you know what the bank would require to set one up and how long this could take?

*Is your scheme registered with HRMC?

*Do you have up to date nomination forms on file from all the employee and are these readily to hand?

 

These are just two common areas of weakness we consistently see but there are many more. We would be more than happy to review your benefit schemes to ensure the structure and accompanying procedures are all in order, taking any concern in this area away from you. For further information on our scheme suitability review please contact the team on 01883 332260.

 

Richard is one of our Strategic Benefit Consultants.

The theme of World Mental Health Day 2017 is mental health in the workplace. While a lot of progress is being made to remove the stigma surrounding mental ill health, employers can be at a loss as to what to do next. Many may be aware of the support that is available via traditional routes, such as employee assistance programmes (EAPs) or private medical insurance; but Group Risk Development (GRiD) is telling employers that there are now many more solutions available within group risk polices (employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness protection products).

 

What’s new

Solutions are available to help employers and managers promote mental health and to support staff who have mental health disorders. For instance, spotting the early signs that employees need help is crucial in mitigating the chance of problems worsening and can also speed recovery. Early awareness makes early intervention possible, and a number of group risk providers offer mental health first aid training to help line managers identify early signs.

 

Training can also be tailored for specific demographics, such as younger workers. Courses can focus on key areas linked to depression, such as dealing with insomnia. Practical in nature, they are designed to directly encourage better behaviours to help management support their staff.

 

Providers have also embraced technology, including taking the development of apps to a whole new level. Proven to engage employees, they can be personally tailored to aid buy-in, incentivised with achievable rewards, and deliver tangible results. Some providers also offer free fitness trackers to staff. Employers benefit too as they can measure the difference such apps can make to their workforce.

 

The new developments are a great addition to the support that has already been incorporated within group risk products in recent years. Such support can include EAPs, fast-track access to counselling, case management, vocational rehabilitation, HR advice, second medical opinion and more. Employers that actively make use of the support under their group risk products can have access to both the reactive and the proactive, enabling them to offer well-rounded support for their staff and business.

 

Why now

There are many market-leading solutions that providers have developed to support mental health in the workplace. A lot are offered at no extra cost within group risk policies. Employers may have access to them and not realise. GRiD is urging employers to look at the details of what comes along with their group risk products, talk to their advisers, work with their providers, and make use of the support that’s available. For employers who don’t yet offer group risk benefits, it is worth investigating what’s out there.

 

For whom

Group risk providers have worked hard at developing solutions to help all employers and their staff every day, regardless of size or type of organisation. Those companies that make use of them effectively can reduce absence costs and improve on productivity, whilst reinforcing a caring attitude.

 

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD said, ‘There is every reason for employers to investigate the new developments being made. Group risk is no longer about simply offering financial support when needed, it is seeing some of the most exciting areas of development, and it is fast becoming an important part of the go-to solution offering practical support for mental wellbeing.

 

‘Our message for employers that are serious about supporting mental health in the workplace is this – if you have group risk policies in place, make full use of them; if you don’t, now is the time to investigate the options available.’

 

GRiD is also reminding employers that it is important that such support isn’t looked at in isolation. Mental, physical and financial resilience are all equally important and go hand in hand. Offering employees support for their mental health is an important part of a holistic approach to looking after the overall health and wellbeing of staff. Group risk policies can help in all these areas.

Group Life Assurance pays out without the need for probate and provides bereavement counselling, says GRiD, following the bereavement benefit changes

From 6 April this year, the new Bereavement Support Payment replaced the current suite of State bereavement benefits (Bereavement Payment, Bereavement Allowance and Widowed Parent’s Allowance).

On the face of it, the changes appear to be beneficial, with a refocus on the additional and more immediate costs of bereavement support for the 18-month period immediately following the bereavement (rather than for 12 months), and no loss of benefit on remarriage or re-partnering. However, many families will be worse off, especially those with children where the current Widowed Parent’s Allowance is paid until such time as Child Benefit stops.

As if to add insult to injury, the Ministry of Justice is also abolishing the current fee structure for probate and introducing a new banded structure based on the value of an estate – meaning that many people will be hit by much higher charges than they expect.

The combination of these changes could leave even more bereaved families significantly worse off.

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD said: “Group life assurance via the workplace has always played a valuable part in financially supporting dependants when a member of a family dies whilst in employment. However, we believe it is likely to become increasingly appreciated as families could now receive less in the way of State bereavement benefits, and are required to pay out more for probate.

“Crucially, in the event of the death of someone whose employer provides group life assurance, benefits are generally paid within a few days without the need for probate, which ensures that families are not left on the bread line or with immediate financial concerns.”

The extra help on top of a financial pay-out

As well as providing a financial benefit, most group life assurance providers offer built-in bereavement counselling services and probate helplines, which are free to access for dependants. This can provide a valuable emotional and practical lifeline for survivors at a particularly difficult time.

 

For more details of Group Life Assurance schemes and their ancillary benefits please contact the team on 01883 332260 or at info@wingatebs.com.

 

About GRiD: Group Risk Development (GRiD) is the industry body for the group risk protection sector, promoting the value to UK businesses of providing financial protection for their staff, enhancing their wellbeing and improving employee engagement. Wingate are proud to be active members of GRiD.