Your industry needs you

Group risk professionals should ask not what their industry can do for them, but what they can do for it, argues Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for Group Risk Development

We are often asked what Grid members get for their money. The short answer is ’plenty’ – regular legislative updates, exclusive access to Grid’s employer research results and roundtable debates, input to and sight of Grid’s consultation responses, etcetera. But perhaps we should turn the question around.

Grid exists to enhance the status and uptake of group risk protection benefits and, like any other industry body, its success, or otherwise, depends on the commitment and dedication of its members. Or, put it another way, you only get out what you put in. And Grid’s members put in an extraordinary amount.

Take for example, Grid’s success last year in achieving an exemption from the removal of the Default Retirement Age for insured benefits.

This only came about as the result of a long, sustained and mature dialogue on many levels with government departments and other stakeholders. It was a true team effort, and that’s the point. Together, we are stronger and can gain a greater share of voice.

Other recent Grid achievements include the Law Society dropping the proposed re-categorisation of micro businesses as retail rather than commercial customers under its review of contract law, the CII’s launch of a combined Certificate in Health and Protection to include the Grid developed Group Risk exam (GR1), recognition of Group Risk by HM Treasury in the Consultation on Gender in Insurance – the Government’s proposed approach to implementing the ECJ judgment on “Test Achats” and publication of cross-industry claims figures for the first time ever.

Grid’s profile is increasingly being recognised by policymakers, but we still have a way to go.

Grid exists to enhance the status and uptake of group risk protection benefits and, like any other industry body, its success, or otherwise, depends on the commitment and dedication of its member

We welcome the findings of Dame Carol Black’s and David Frost’s “Health at work – an independent review of sickness absence” and it is pleasing that the Review recognised the important role that group income protection plays. Many of the report’s recommendations are very much in line with best practice already adopted by GIP providers around early assessment and intervention. However, thus far, the important financial safety net of GIP has not been widely recognised and the report is based on some misconceptions.

A GIP scheme provides a continuing income for employees if illness or injury prevents them from working for a prolonged period of time, and the industry paid out £292.3m to a total of 13,500 families during 2010, thus saving the State considerable burden, both before and after State Pension Age. Sadly, while the Review does support tax relief for employers providing vocational rehabilitation for employees, it falls short of acknowledging the role the group risk industry could play in early intervention and rehabilitation.

The Government has a role to play in raising awareness of the need to protect income against the consequences of prolonged disability and the importance of the workplace in doing this, in the same way they have done for pensions. According to Grid’s latest employer research, 59 per cent of businesses would consider implementing a group income protection policy if the Government incentivised them to do so.

We look forward to working with Government to ensure that the value group income protection brings is further recognised in the Government Green Paper due to be published later in 2012 – for the benefit of businesses, employees and the State.

So, once again, let’s rise to the challenge and pull together to get a consistent message across to Government and policymakers that GIP is affordable for a much greater proportion of the workforce, it is inclusive and offers access to cover that might not otherwise be available for workers and it is suitable for the lower paid (the average GIP claim is less than average earnings). And lets also remind stakeholders that GIP is already available, and achieving many of the things the Sickness Absence Review recommends.

As an industry, let’s engage with the Government’s response consultation in any way that we can. To quote JKF again, “All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days… But let us begin.”