Many insurers cite ‘early intervention' as key to improving long term absence outcomes and improving the claims experience of group income protection (GIP) policies.
But many seem to be lacking a defined and robust process to make the most of the early intervention window. Is this lack of control early on putting insurers on the back foot?
The impact of long term absence and probability of a successful return to work is something that has been regularly reviewed but the consensus is that the longer someone is absent, the lower the chances of a successful return to work.
A review compiled for the DWP in 2003 found that after just six months of absence (a commonly used deferred period), the likelihood of a successful return to work in the foreseeable future reduces to just 50%. Beyond six months, the chances continue to fall.
It is clear therefore that the earlier a long-term absentee is supported and assisted in their recovery, the greater the chance of a successful return to work and the lower the chance of a claim on the income protection policy. A return to work suits all stakeholders: member, employer and insurance company.
Traditional GIP policies rely on the insurer being notified by the employer of long term absences.
While this sounds simple enough, it soon becomes apparent when dealing with different companies that although a formal absence management and reporting process is theoretically in place, it is often interpreted differently, if not ignored completely.
As such, the insurer cannot be certain that long-term absences reported by the employer will be reported accurately or promptly, leading to intervention being anything but ‘early'.
To counteract these issues, a standardised and reliable means of recording absences needs to be at the centre of policies.
This should provide an employee with assistance early enough to make a significant difference, provide the employer with clear data of where their staff are and allow the insurer a chance to intervene before it is too late.
If employers cannot reliably say where their people are and how they are, they are not adequately managing the risks that employee absence and ill health bring to their businesses.
Kieran Stratton is a case manager at Ellipse