Group income protection is extending its reach into lower income groups within the workplace with more than half of workers covered now earning less than £40,000 a year, according to figures from Unum.
The data shows 55 per cent of employees with GIP earn less than £40,000, and 22 per cent work for SMEs with fewer than 250 staff.
But a wide gender gap exists in coverage, with just 37 per cent of women covered by GIP from their employer, compared to 63 per cent of men.
The figures are based on the 780,582 employees from 6,600 organisations that Unum provided GIP to on 31 October 2016.
The data comes as the government is consulting on how employers can help more people with long-term health problems to stay in work. Its Green Paper on Work, Health and Disability states that the government believes GIP “has a much bigger role to play” in enabling employers to invest in staff wellbeing and prevent those with health problems from falling out of work unnecessarily.
The new data contradicts an impression that employers only provide GIP to high earning executives and their most senior employees. The figures show 17 per cent of those with GIP from Unum earn under £20,000, 22 per cent earn £20-£30,000 and 16 per cent earn £30-40,000. Almost half, 49 per cent, of those with GIP are under 40 years old.
Unum argues that recent innovations to tailor GIP to the needs of SMEs are paying off. It now covers 171,728 people who work for SMEs, of whom 11 per cent work for organisations with 100-249 employees, 9 per cent for organisations with 20-99 employees and 2 per cent for employers with fewer than 20 staff.
The data shows that SMEs cover broadly the same type of employees as larger employers. Both big and small employers cover around the same proportion of female workers, younger workers and staff on lower salaries.
While large employers will have to publically report their gender pay gap from April 2017, Unum argues there is also a gender benefits gap. Only 37 per cent of those with GIP from their employer are women, compared to 63 per cent of men, even though women are more likely to acquire a disability and to use their GIP cover. Unum’s 2016 Claims Statement showed women made 44 per cent of GIP claims and more than half of all cancer claims.
Unum’s coverage data shows 24 per cent of those with GIP are aged 50 and over, although they make half of all new claims. Over 50s are also more likely to use the Return to Work service – 34 per cent of those who used rehabilitation to return to work were 50 and over, according to Unum’s 2016 Return to Work Statement.
Unum HR director Liz Walker says: “Serious health conditions like cancer and mental health problems can affect anyone, from the top boss to the shop floor. No matter what you earn or how small the company you work for, when you face a serious health problem you need your employer to do the right things. This new data shows that the smart, caring employers who invest in GIP are protecting more and more of their staff and they come in all shapes and sizes.”
Unum head of public affairs and CSR John Letizia says: “GIP helps disabled people reach their potential wherever they work and helps build a fairer economy for everyone. 83 per cent of disabled people acquire their disability during their working life6 and the government wants employers to support as many as possible to stay in work. This data proves GIP already helps employers of all sizes do just that. So to increase coverage, Unum is calling for a temporary tax break for employers who invest in GIP”.