As a ‘business to business’ market, Group Risk insurers, as a generalisation, tend to focus on employer, rather than employee, communications. Whilst there are personal interactions, it is limited to areas such as a limited amount of medical underwriting or claims and so there is little visibility in consumer media to promote the existence of these benefits or the support services that the insurers provide. This means that employers need to communicate to employees proactively to promote the positive messages and to maximise the benefits spend which in turn will enhance their ability to retain and gain the best talent.
Paul Avis, Group Marketing Director at Canada Life, explained the issue to us in more detail. “We have a raft of communications materials talking about not only the financial benefits, but sometimes viewed as more importantly, the support services that we offer.
“The merits of support services have traditionally been seen as complementary to the financial benefits for the organisation, but the value of being able to use many of them at no cost, on a daily basis without having to be a claimant is raising the importance of these to employer customers. Any insurer can pay a cheque, but in the Group market it is what else is provided alongside paying claims that becoming the true determinant of value for customers.”
Group Income Protection (GIP) policies are leading the way with support service provision and the flagship of all insurers are their early intervention services (EIS). With Canada Life, for example, EIS - which is available from day one of an absence, is triggered by a call to one of its nurses. And, in effect provides free vocational rehabilitation, essential when managing complex absences such as stress and mental health. The results of this proactive intervention are impressive and employees who engage with EIS have an average absence duration of seven weeks; highlighting an immediate return on investment by reducing occupational and Statutory Sick Pay.
“Packages that provide Second Medical Opinion services give employees and their family members clinical certainty and we valued this so much we decided to cover not only insured but non-insured employees under where our GIP was in place.” Avis continues, “Imagine your child or your partner was diagnosed with a serious condition. Would you want to know for sure that their diagnosis and treatment were correct? At a personal level, an employer supporting an employee with a sick child or partner not only shows compassion for the situation, but can also enable an employee to return to work quicker, if they are absent to care for their loved one or due to their condition. Up to 50% of our SMO service users can have a change in treatment and 20% a change in diagnosis in any given year and so this is massively beneficial for all concerned. ”
“We have also extended our Employee Assistance Programme to cover all employees. So that enables an organisation to communicate to the whole population - all insurers want these benefits used as they are provided by quality providers.”
“The customer for Group Risk insurers is the employer,” surmises Avis. “That is not to say that insurers in this space do not support employees and family members; they actually provide much more support than many employers are aware of and all organisations should be communicating and using them. After all, the costs are absorbed within the premium, rather than at the point of use, and so there is no downside to promoting them. And the business and personal benefits are massive and in many instances the support service packages leads to a more rounded employee benefits package that clearly exceeds the perceived value of the financial benefit. Until of course the worse happens!”