It’s been announced that the government intends to change the law by the end of this year to allow opposite-sex couples to form civil partnerships. Currently, when someone is married or in a same-sex civil partnership and their spouse or civil partner dies, they may be entitled to state Bereavement Support Payment, and this will be extended to those in opposite-sex civil partnerships.
The maximum amount currently payable to a bereaved spouse or same-sex civil partner is a lump sum of £3,500 plus up to 18 monthly payments of £350. Given the average cost of a funeral in the UK is £3,757 and average earnings in the UK are £2,466 a month, any Bereavement Support Payment won’t go very far towards easing a family’s ongoing financial commitments.
This provides a timely reminder for employers to review how they support their staff in such circumstances, especially since not all couples choose either marriage or a civil partnership and so won’t even be entitled to this payment if a partner dies.
With increasing onus of responsibility on employers to help support people at work, they are perfectly placed to help in such situations. Employers can provide staff with access to Group Life Assurance, either by funding it or simply giving employees the option to fund it themselves, for instance via a flexible benefits programme. Group Life Assurance pays out a lump sum when an employee dies, the employee chooses in advance who should receive the money, it’s free of inheritance tax, can be paid within a few days, and amounts offered are typically two, three or four times salary.
- The group risk industry paid out 10,027 death claims in 2018, valued at £1.117 billion.
- The average claim was £114,691.
- The main causes for claim were cancer (42%) and heart disease (15%).
Many providers also offer bereavement support and help with probate in addition to the financial benefits. And this can provide an emotional lifeline at a time when people are most in need.
Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD, the group risk industry body says: “It’s good news that more couples will be entitled to state bereavement support, but there’s so much more that employers can offer. When you compare the financial support that can be provided by the state to what can be provided by group life assurance policies, the difference is huge.
“Group life assurance is the original group risk product, and the financial and emotional support that it provides makes all the difference in the world to those that need it. Now is a good time for employers to review their employee benefit packages and make sure that group life assurance is on that list.”