Unum has urged the government to improve take-up of income protection (IP) through four key steps including channels such as the Money Advice Service (MAS) raising awareness of sickness absence.
In a manifesto released by Unum drawing on research from firms including Demos and Charles River Associates, the insurer has said that all government-backed advice services, such as the MAS, should include advice on how to prepare in advance of injury or ill health.
The manifesto said: "The MAS e offers clear, free and impartial advice for people who would not be able to pay their bills in the event of illness. However, because people underestimate the risk of being unable to work and overestimate the protection they already have, they are unlikely to use the MAS until it is too late.
"To make sure everyone can properly prepare before they are unable to work and pay their bills, all other relevant Government advice services should signpost to or replicate the Money Advice Service guide to income protection."
This should include all sources of advice on: retirement planning, the Health and Work Service, Age Positive, long-term physical and mental health conditions, welfare, healthy workplaces and being a good employer, the manifesto said.
Meanwhile, Unum also called for the introduction of temporary tax relief for SME employers offering all of their employees IP.
Additionally, the government should carry out regular economic evaluations of sickness absence, how to minimise it and how to help people manage financially when ill, the report said.
While Unum cited the Fuller Working Lives report and the Frost/Black review into sickness absence as examples where the government has previously done this, it called for a systematic programme of ‘research and action.'
To minimise sickness absence, the insurer said "it is vital that we have strong evidence about the effects of sickness absence and the best value solutions to help people return to work."
And finally, the manifesto requested the creation of an interdepartmental government study to explore whether auto-enrolment can be used to improve access to other financial products
John Letizia, head of public affairs at Unum said: "Whatever the result of the next General Election, the new government will face a number of significant social policy challenges. Group income protection is central to the debates on employment, health and wellbeing, and disability.
"The insurance sector is uniquely placed to provide innovative and affordable proposals based on expertise in this area. That is why we are setting out our key policy recommendations in this manifesto, based on the extensive research we've undertaken, to help the UK develop a robust back-up plan."
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