Research from Legal & General has uncovered a disconnect between women’s understanding and their engagement with group protection benefits and services.
The insurer said the results suggested a need for more relevant and targeted communications from advisers, insurers and employers to help ensure women knew about the benefits available to them.
Its survey found that across group income protection (GIP), critical illness cover (CI) and employee assistance programmes (EAPs) 66% of women and 63% of men said these policies were relevant to their health, wealth and happiness, but far fewer women (56%) than men (68%) had engaged with these benefits.
Just 14% of women with a CI policy have ever altered or topped up their policy compared to 24% of men, rising to 20% of women with a GIP plan versus 38% of men.
Half of all women with an EAP have never used any of the benefits on offer. And 24% of women with GIP compared to just 12% of men, could not say if their policy came with free mental health and rehabilitation support.
Almost a quarter (22%) of women with GIP, compared to 26% of men, did not consider it relevant to them or their family, as did 25% of women with CIC and 35% with an EAP.
When asked for their reasons, in all instances, ‘I feel the state provides this kind of support’ was featured far down the list of priorities (eg for CIC, only 7% of women, vs 17% of men).
These figures suggest women had a better understanding of the limitations of state support, but did not recognise as much as men how workplace benefits could fill the gap.
Why benefits were not relevant
The main reasons women gave for GIP not being relevant was that they did not read all the company information, the information was too much to take in, the fact they never took time off ill, and that they didn’t understand the benefit.
For CI, the women surveyed said their partner handled all of their insurance needs and for EAP, most women were concerned that their employer would get to know too much about their health or private life and that their employer did not really communicate the relevance of this benefit.
Reasons for using benefits
More women (27%) than men (17%) among those who have used GIP said this was due to a desire to protect their health due to pressures on the NHS.
Women also valued GIP as it gave them peace of mind and demonstrated that their employer cared.
The top reason for women valuing CIC was that it demonstrated that that their employer cared, followed by the fact that it protected the whole family and not just themselves, and that it has proven a valuable addition to their overall reward package.
Disparity between opinion and behaviours
Colin Fitzgerald, distribution director – group protection at Legal & General said: “One of the key findings from our study is the disparity we have identified among the opinions and behaviours of women when it comes to their group protection policies.
“On the one hand, it’s reassuring to find that a high percentage of women understand the relevance of these benefits when it comes to self-provision due to the limitations of state health and welfare support.
“On the other hand, the data shows a disconnect when it comes to how well women actually understand and therefore engage with the products and services available, particularly when compared to men.
“This signals a real need to position and communicate these products to women in a way that will help to educate, empower and increase engagement.”
Sian Fisher, CEO of the Chartered Insurance Institute and co-founder of Insuring Women’s Futures, added: “The insurance and personal finance profession must improve the way it engages with women, help them consider the immediate and longer-term financial implications of their life choices or change in circumstances and empower them to take action to improve their financial resilience.”
According to Fitzgerald, the findings present an opportunity for advisers to expand the breadth of their consulting to include – in partnership with insurers – helping employers discover how to communicate effectively and make use of the tools some providers have in place to help to do this.
“Segmented and customised benefits and wellbeing communications that are designed to cut through the ‘noise’ and connect with people are key, with a focus on storytelling and humanising benefits, as opposed to insurance-speak, which can often be peppered with jargon, in a one-off communication,” he added.