Company-sponsored group risk benefits (life assurance, income protection and critical illness) provided by employers paid out a record £2.01bn to employees and their dependants in 2020, shows industry data compiled by Group Risk Development (GRiD). 

This is an increase of £255.7 million over 2019Thousands of UK employees and their families (28,733) were helped to avoid financial hardship during the worst of times for them: after the death, illness or disability of a loved one, because of the benefits put in place by their employer.  

While employers widely understand that group risk products will provide financial support when needed, it is the additional embedded benefits that increase their value for many. Help and support from insurers, such as vocational rehabilitation, case management, mediation, fast access to counselling and physiotherapy and other interventions helped 4,476 employees back to work after a period of sick leave. 

Interactions with other embedded services such as an Employee Assistance Programme, HR and line manager advice, online GP services, second medical opinion services and physical and mental health apps increased exponentially to a record number of 138,222 interactions (compared with 74,707 interactions during 2019). Where the type of support service interaction has been recordedinsurers have seen significant online and telephone usage (45% online, 42% telephone, 11% face to face.) The provision of remotely accessible support services has been invaluable in supporting people during the pandemic and periods of social distancing. 

These embedded services are funded by the insurer, provided at no extra cost to the employer and can be accessed 24/7 regardless of whether a claim has been made. 

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD said: ‘The group risk industry is growing year on year and these figures demonstrate why. They’re some of the most valued benefits for employers and employees. Their value is tangible, financial and practical, and employers recognise just how much they help their business and their workforce.  

Total benefits paid 

Group life assurance policies paid out total benefits to the value of £1.37 billion (an increase of £199.78 million over 2019); group income protection policies paid out a total of £550.86 million (an increase of £57.88 million compared with 2019); group critical illness policies paid out benefits totalling £91.64 million (a slight decrease of £1.96 million over 2019).  

The average new claim amounts (£118,244 for group life; £28,138 p.a. for group income protection; £70,274 for group critical illness) evidence the fact that these benefits should not just be seen as perks for the higher paid but that they throw a vital financial lifeline to people regardless of their salary, age or position and they are often the only financial protection many employees will have 

Return to work facilitated for 4,476 employees within 2 years  

For group income protection, as well as the claims paid, there are many cases each year where employees are helped back to work both before and after a claim becomes payable, often with the support of the insurer, the employer or both.  

GRiD has captured details of the cases where the insurer supported a return to work with active early intervention (such as fasttrack access to counselling or physiotherapy, funded by the insurerbefore that employee was eligible for a monetary payment. 2,362 people (31.8% of all claims submitted, down slightly by 2.9 percentage points on 2019were able to go back to work during 2020 because of such early intervention (of which, 59had help to overcome mental illness and 11% had support overcoming a musculoskeletal condition). 

GRiD also captures details of cases to demonstrate that once a claim is in payment, help and support back to work is still given and employees are not forgotten. Of the new group income protection claims that went into payment during 20192,114 employees were helped by the insurer to make a full return to work during that year or during 2020. 

Main cause of claim 

Cancer was the main cause of claim across all three products during 2020. Covid19 was the third most common cause of claim on group life assurance (8%). 

Moxham concluded: ‘This year, health and wellbeing is firmly at the top of the corporate agenda, and we expect employers of all sizes to even more fully embrace the value that group risk benefits provide. From access to rehab, support for long Covid through to financial pay outs, they provide some of the most comprehensive support for businesses and their employees.’