Protection insurers have received a ringing endorsement from government for the role they play in supporting workers’ health.
The endorsement features in government’s response to its Health is everyone’s business: proposals to reduce ill health-related job loss consultation, which also sees government commit to supporting the creation of a consensus statement to improve employers’ awareness of the link between good work and good health.
Government also welcomed the proposal to develop a consensus statement, put forward by group risk industry body Grid.
It added it would support the creation of the statement and would continue to work with industry to improve awareness among employers and self-employed people of the benefits protection policies can provide.
In its response, government agreed that, where policies were accompanied by high-quality services aimed at preventing ill health and offering return to work support, insurance products “are a valuable source of support, in addition to offering a financial benefit if an employee is unable to work due to illness or injury”.
It added that some individual income protection policies can provide similar benefits for the self-employed.
Commenting on government’s response, Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for Grid, said the trade body welcomed the consultation response and was pleased the role of income protection insurance had been recognised in reducing ill-health job loss.
“The workplace has an important part to play in maintaining good health, dealing with ill health at an early stage and supporting employees to remain in work,” she said.
“We are particularly pleased to see that other services that can help to achieve the same (and other relevant) outcomes as pure/traditional occupational health (OH) services in reducing ill-health related job loss (such as vocational rehabilitation, case management, advice on return to work and reasonable adjustments: i.e. the types of services provided under a group income protection insurance policy) have now been included in the definition of OH.
“This rightly recognises that pure/traditional OH services are not the only solution available to employers in supporting employees to stay in the workplace.
“We look forward to working with government to take forward the consensus statement project – which aims to enhance employer guidance, improve employers’ awareness of the link between good work and good health, and promote the use of expert-led support services – and to continuing discussions to help government’s understanding of the different routes through which employers may prefer to access OH services.”
Simon Hodgson, head of public policy at employee benefits provider Unum, described government’s endorsement of group income protection as “brilliant news” for the industry, which comes after years of dedicated hard work by providers and advisers.
“I am thrilled to see ministers recognise the value our products already bring, and to see their commitment to improving employer awareness so that even more people can benefit.
“With today’s announcement, government has recognised that group income protection provides not just a financial benefit if an employee is unable to work due to illness or injury, but can help any employer – large or small – to promote good workplace health and support employees back to work through high-quality vocational rehabilitation.”
He added the endorsement was just the start and that insurers, healthcare professionals, employers, and government would now all need to work together to raise awareness of the benefits of good workplace health, and ensure that Britain’s workers have the protection and support they need to thrive in good work.
“The need for continued joint working applies equally to reform of Statutory Sick Pay which is still long-overdue. We call on the government to bring its plans forward urgently,” he concluded.
Zurich UK head of market management for group risk Nick Homer said the insurer was equally pleased at the government’s recognition.
“In particular, we welcome their support for creating a consensus statement for employers of all sizes, and working with the industry to improve awareness of the benefits that protection policies can provide,” he said.
“Not least, the wellbeing services and the rehabilitation support that sits at the heart of products like income protection.
“While it is imperative that employers continue to develop their own policies to manage risks and address the emerging challenges of the modern workplace, we’re committed to working closely with the government to ensure that employers know what resources are available to help them, including affordable insurance solutions that can support them as part of their approach to managing occupational health and protecting their businesses.”