Making group income protection work harder for employee health and wellbeing

An EAP, often included within a group income protection insurance policy, can be a cost-effective way of assisting with health and wellbeing problems

Group income protection (GIP) insurance can provide employees with peace of mind that their income will be covered in the event of being off work. But, as Paul Avis explains, it is important employers understand, and make full use of, additional health-related benefits that commonly come with GIP policies, including access to an employee assistance programmes and early intervention services.

“A happy and healthy employee is more likely to be a productive one” is a wisdom that is finally catching on with employees and businesses.

Improving employee wellbeing has a number of business benefits, other than being conducive to economic growth. A great wellbeing offering for employees can be a key differentiator in the employment market, which is pertinent considering the current labour shortages UK businesses are facing.

About the author

Paul Avis is marketing director at Canada Life Group Insurance

There is an acute need for employers to be able to support their employees and understand the solutions available to their organisations.

Workplace affects mental and physical health

Mental health as an area of occupational health has been brought to greater prominence as stress and mental ill health have now risen to be one of the top four causes of long-term absence. Our research at Canada Life has suggested more than half of UK employees have experienced mental health issues while in employment, with stress, anxiety and depression at the top of the list.

We do know that workplace environments can have a notable negative impact. Having a high pressure or stressful role, an unsustainable workload, excessive working hours and unpleasant interactions with colleagues can all lead to mental health problems.

About a fifth of UK employees have come into work when feeling mentally unwell, with a significant minority arguing it is because they did not feel comfortable saying they were taking time off for a mental health problem rather than a physical one, or because they felt their boss and colleagues would not understand or take them seriously. Where this is the case, employers need to intensify their efforts to change their employees’ mindsets.

We also cannot ignore the fact some physical health issues are caused or exacerbated by our workplaces. Sedentary office jobs do not encourage an active lifestyle, while the popular style of open-plan offices enables illnesses to spread quickly across an organisation.

Our research again shows that working from home can be a healthier option. Indeed, while a third (32%) of employees working in an open-plan office say they regularly feel anxious or stressed because of work, almost half that proportion (17%) of those who work predominantly from home experience the same feeling.

Addressing wellbeing through an EAP

To aid employers faced with this myriad of wellbeing issues, the importance of employee assistance programmes (EAPs) should not be underestimated.

An EAP is a strategic and cost-effective way of assisting with wellbeing problems, allowing staff to identify and resolve personal concerns that may affect their wellbeing and job performance. Almost all group income protection (GIP) contracts now also include an EAP, so employers and staff can benefit without any additional cost to their insurance policy.

As most OH professionals will well know, the services offered by an EAP can involve a combination of short-term solutions and focused support, such as counselling, information about care and legal guidance, as well as assistance for emotional and workplace issues.

But it is also worth noting that employees do not have to actually be confronted with an issue in order to use the service. There are many other positive benefits of regular engagement in lifestyle guidance that may be made even easier by the provision of a partner app.

Most importantly, having regular, positive, open discussions helps to reinforce the message that an employer cares about the health and wellbeing of their staff and will not penalise them for disclosing issues affecting their productivity or health.

Early intervention services for long-term illnesses

While prevention is better than a cure, it is a fact of life that some illnesses will result in long-term absence. For employers, early involvement in their absence and maximising the rehabilitation support available is the prudent choice as the cost of sickness absence is often high up the list of organisational concerns for most businesses.

This is where early intervention services (EIS), which may also be offered as part of a GIP product, can come into play.

With an EIS, employers are able to access case-specific vocational rehabilitation support immediately after an employee has called in with a relevant cause of absence. The aim is to effectively manage employee absence and find the best possible outcome for all parties involved, which in many cases is a sustainable return to work.

Making the most of services such as EAPs and vocational rehabilitation helps employers to prevent wellbeing concerns from becoming problems and tackle them promptly if they do.

Good employee wellbeing is not just a nice thing to have in the workplace, it is a vital requirement for employers who want their business to thrive and be productive.

The Emerging UK Workforce Crisis, Mercer Workforce Monitor,
Health and Well-being at Work, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and Simplyhealth, 2019,
Canada Life Group Mental Health research, December 2015
Canada Life “presenteeism” research, Q3 2018
Canada Life Group Productivity research, March 2018

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