January is an ideal time to review employee benefit packages to increase value
The recruitment and retention value of group risk benefits to businesses should not be overlooked during January, a period in which many employees shop around for a job, says GRiD.
Benefits such as employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness cover offer a financial lifeline to families when they need it most, at a time when the State is withdrawing support and UK household ‘saving ratio' is low.
However, according to the group risk trade body, employers are unlikely to allocate budget to them if they do not fully understand their value.
According to GRiD research, only a third (32%) of business who currently offer group risk use all of the support available to them regularly and nearly three quarters (73%) said they were keen to be enrolled on a course to improve knowledge of their benefits.
With engagement the biggest challenge for HR professionals in 2019 - according to a report by Cascade HR - GRiD research suggests that they are perhaps underestimating the value of group risk benefits, with only a fifth (21%) of employers seeing group risk benefits as a major selling point at interview and review stages.
In addition to financial support, extra services such as employee assistance programmes (EAP), access to a second medical opinions, fast-track access to physiotherapy and psychotherapy, while early absence interventions, line manager and HR support and mental health first aid training are all available as part of group risk benefits. Improved access to GP services and health-tracking apps can also be offered as recruitment and retention perks by employers.
"Enlightened HR staff tend to see exactly how group risk is of benefit, helping with recruitment, retention, engagement and productivity, but that's not always obvious to those who have lesser working knowledge of the products or those outside of the HR department," said Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD. "Even with the distractions of Brexit, the Government's flagship ambitions for health and wellbeing at work are still forging ahead, as outlined in the Government's Improving Lives roadmap, the Taylor Review, the Stevenson/Farmer Review and the latest policy paper launched by the Department of Health & Social Care, ‘Prevention is better than cure: Our vision to help you live well for longer'.
"All of these place additional expectations firmly on employers to support their workforce better, to help reduce the disability employment gap and to make positive changes that will help improve the lives, health and happiness of their people, so businesses need to prepare to take up the baton," she continued.
"Given their increasing obligations, employers could sit back and wait until government best practice advice becomes legislation. Or, given the competitive nature of recruitment, particularly as staff return from the holiday season, it may be better to get a step ahead by being proactive and to use group risk products to achieve a healthy and inclusive workforce. This benefits both employer and employee alike."
Conduct an audit
According to Brett Hill, managing director of The Health Insurance Group, it is important for business to review employee benefits packages, especially during January, a time when staff members may be getting ‘itchy feet'.
"We're encouraging companies to review their benefits now and get them right for the year ahead, the wrong benefits are the biggest waste of money," he said. "The world of employee benefits doesn't stand still, so it's important that companies conduct a regular audit of their benefits to make sure they know what's available on the market and to offer the most relevant benefits to their staff. The litmus test of value and engagement is utilisation - if benefits aren't being used, they're not benefitting anyone. The companies that get the most from the benefits are the ones that communicate them well."
Key areas worth considering include changing demographics of staff, technological advances such as apps and online processes and return of investments to ensure business are getting the best possible value out of their employee benefits packages.