Group Income Protection: Use it, don’t lose it!

by Darren Michel - Head of Claims, Generali UK Employee Benefits

Group Income Protection: Use it, don’t lose it!

Making full use of everything group income protection has to offer to the employee and employer – whether a claim is made or not – makes sense at the best of times. But arguably even more so right now, in the tough economic climate we’re all facing.

Affordability, in terms of competing with budget for other business needs, is cited by 30% of employers as the biggest challenge in supporting the health and wellbeing of staff, according to research by industry body Group Risk Development (GRiD).* Furthermore GRID believes affordability does not simply mean the actual price of providing health and wellbeing support, or the cost of delivering it, but is also about whether decision-makers in the business perceive the value and effectiveness of it.

At the same time though, the majority (98%) who measure the impact on business, say it’s positive. Some of the key employer findings include:

  • 42% say that supporting health and wellbeing holistically helps them manage absence, mitigating the number and length of absences meaning quicker returns to work.
  • 39% say it is integral to their company ethos to support employees – including their health and wellbeing – which helps them fulfil their business objectives.
  • 36% say they are more likely to succeed financially as a business when their employees are fit, healthy and engaged in their work.

Current sickness absence challenges

These findings come against the backdrop of an incredibly challenging market; with plenty of stresses and strains for all – individuals and businesses.

Latest research reveals that UK workers are taking more sick days than at any point in the last decade; an average of 7.8 days in the past year, up from 5.8 before the pandemic. And work-related ill-health represents a significant factor in absence. Over half of all working days lost in the UK are due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety.

This reflects similarly with our own experience of long-term absence, where mental health claims are continuing to gradually increase and now represent over a third of all claims submitted. Of course, work related issues aren’t covered by group income protection which, when considering GRID’s views on what “affordability” means, might contribute to why we are also seeing an increase in the number of mental health claims being declined. This suggests that poor company culture and a lack of sufficient desire to fully support those who are struggling, is also a contributing factor.

Solutions; with or without a claim

But just because group income protection doesn’t cover work related issues doesn’t mean we can’t help. Group income protection comes with a vast array of preventative tools and support, to which employees have direct access – such as our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), virtual GP and eldercare support services. 

Also support is provided for HR and Line Managers, from facilitated mental health training and manager consultations, to help to get under the bonnet of the organisation and identify the underlying causes of work related mental health issues. 

Furthermore, even where a claim is turned down, that’s not where the story ends. It’s typical for group income protection insurers to pay for all kinds of treatment and support, according to an individual’s specific needs. For example, medical evidence might not indicate a claim, but when we’ve dug deeper, we’ve discovered and supported treatment for underlying mental health issues where the presenting condition was physical only.

It's this kind of biopsychosocial (whole person) support that brings benefits to both people and business.

Calling for more early notifications!

We’d like to do more. We’d like to provide support to more people as early as possible to ensure better outcomes all round. However, our latest data for 2023 shows that 52% of all new claims were submitted with less than six weeks to go before the end of the deferred period. This highlights a lot more can be done to help tackle the ever rising UK-wide absence statistics.

We’re hoping that with our new claims team restructure, our new claims system and our dedication to customer outcomes, we can help provide the best possible support to employers who continue to struggle with claims submissions.

Long-term absence support

Meanwhile, it’s also worth noting that the number of people economically inactive in the UK because of long-term sickness is now over 2.5 million, an increase of over 400,000 since the start of the pandemic. 

Again, this reflects our claims experience. Last year (2022) saw a significant increase in both the number of submitted claims and newly admitted claims; approximately 40% more newly paid claims in 2022 than in 2021. We’re expecting this trend to continue throughout 2023, given the ever-growing long-term sickness problem in the UK right now.

For the long-term sick and injured, group income protection also has a huge role to play, not only in providing peace of mind – for employer and employee alike – but also in terms of giving insured employees the proactive early intervention and rehabilitation support they need to return to work.

The value from group income protection extends well beyond salary replacement; supporting the dayto-day wellbeing needs of employees; providing tailored help to prevent short term absence becoming long-term issues; and helping those on long-term absence get back on their feet as soon as possible. It’s there to be used. And we strongly encourage value measurement; a prerequisite in those annual budget discussions. 

*GRiD press release, dated 15 August 2023.

To learn more about our Group Risk products and services, or in case of any queries in relation to this article, please contact

All information contained herein represents the views and opinions of the author as at the date of writing and is provided for general information only and use. This article is directed solely at businesses. Nothing herein constitutes or is intended to constitute financial or other form of advice and no individual should rely upon the information provided in making a specific investment decision without first seeking independent professional advice.