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Group risk – excuse me, what?

Group risk – excuse me, what?

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‘Group risk’ is the provision of group life assurance, group income protection and group critical illness cover.  Today, I’m going to focus on the first two – group life assurance and group income protection.  I can hear you exclaim ‘that doesn’t help me know what it is!’ and I appreciate this.  When I first started work in group risk, I didn’t understand any of these products.  The only ‘groups’ I’d experienced were S Club 7, Backstreet Boys and Destiny’s Child.  No, I haven’t been working in group risk for that long – my taste in music is just quite questionable…

My understanding of these products has matured along with my personal life.  When first exposed to group risk I was single and living with my parents (don’t underestimate how amazing being taken care of is – that feeling of a magically full fridge is timeless).  My only responsibility was my monthly Netflix subscription (which at the time was £4.99 – how times have changed!) and mobile phone bill.  None of these products were of interest to me, let alone applicable to my personal circumstances – nor of any importance when selecting my next employer.  Luckily for me, I began working for a company who trained me in group risk (and they happened to have a comprehensive benefits package too).

Little did I appreciate at the time, but when I needed surgery on my foot I had the luxury of two months’ supported absence, with full pay.  I was supported in my recovery by an insurance company (who I’ve come to learn is very well-known!).  They contacted me weekly to see how I was and conducted an assessment at my workplace to advise my employer on the actions required to facilitate my comfortable and phased return to work.  At the tender age of 24, I had just witnessed how early intervention services provided by group income protection providers helped me to return to work and feel confident and dignified in doing so.  Had my injury worsened, I was comforted to know my salary was covered until I turned 65 or, I returned to work.

Group income protection – what is this?
Forget ‘group’ – try and focus on ‘income Protection.’  The word ‘group’ refers to a type of insurance that only your employer has to worry about.  These policies, more often than not funded by your employer, are designed to provide a replacement income (generally a percentage of your salary) whilst you’re unable to work due to illness or injury.  The big plus of ‘group’ insurance membership is that you’re typically covered without the need to supply evidence of medical history, provided your salary falls below a pre-defined amount.  This rule applies to most people.

A few years later I was working for a company with no company-funded group income protection and no occupational sick pay.  I experience a period of absence and whilst I’m trying to recover, my mind is riddled with worry – will I cover my rent this month?  Where before I was supported (financially and physically) and able to focus on my recovery, my mental health didn’t deteriorate.  However, now that all I’m focusing on is how I can support myself on the barest of minimums, my mental health really takes a hit.  If your income isn’t protected, the only benefits you’re entitled to are state-funded and although they have their place, I guarantee they won’t be enough to support your current way of life (I’m thinking rent, mortgage, childcare, food!).

Moving forward another few years – I’m married and (deep breath) we’re about to complete the purchase of our first home.  Suddenly, the above memories hit me harder than 2007 hit Britney Spears.  The importance of working for a company who rewards my hard work with a comprehensive employee benefits package is something I’m much more conscious of.   I hear the term ‘financial wellbeing’ a lot, and I really can attest to its importance.  Employees experiencing financial worries are likely not working productively and if they’re unfortunate enough to be in an accident or have an illness, I guarantee that when not offered financial support, their mental health will deteriorate.  This is when employee benefits such as group income protection make all the difference.

Group Life Assurance – what is this?
This benefit typically provides a tax-free lump sum to a beneficiary of yours if you pass away whilst employed by your employer: the lump sum typically being a multiple of your salary.  Generally, you’ll be covered (without the need to disclose medical history) provided your lump sum falls below a certain amount.  As above, this rule would apply to most.  Provision of this benefit isn’t compulsory and obtaining life insurance privately with pre-existing medical conditions (even minor ones) is a long, arduous process – and you’re not guaranteed cover at the end of the often months-long process (trust me!).  I rest very easy at night knowing that if the worst were to happen, my wife would be financially okay (and free to never listen to S Club 7 ever again) – she’d keep our home that we worked so hard to buy.  She would, however, need to take over paying the now £11.99 (!!) a month Netflix subscription.

Providing group life assurance and group income protection change not only the practicalities but the atmosphere in a workplace, making employees feel cared for and removing a lot of uncertainty.   These two benefits contribute extensively towards financial wellbeing and – connected to that sense of security – workplace happiness.  Not sure what benefits you have access to?  Talk to your HR team for a breakdown of your benefits!  Have the confidence to ask about benefits at interview.  Don’t underestimate the impact they will have on your career.

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