Press release 22 November 2023.
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt MP, today delivered his Autumn Statement with a focus on rewarding work, helping make work pay, and reforming welfare in recognition of the need to expand the workforce and get those out of work back into work to deliver growth.
Commenting on the measures, GRiD spokesperson, Katharine Moxham, said:
“As an industry, we understand the value of providing extra support to people in their journey back to work so it’s encouraging to see government taking some positive steps towards supporting people back to work from (or people at risk of falling into) long-term unemployment due to sickness or disability, although using carrot rather than stick might be a more sympathetic approach. There’s still much to shake out of this and the devil will be in the detail, but government needs to go much further and address how people fall out of work in the first place and how to manage those with fluctuating health conditions, who could need fast access back to the state safety net at times.
“It’s vital to explore how people end up being economically inactive. In many cases, employees wouldn’t leave work if they were better supported by their employer. Employers will find help within their benefits package for supporting those whose health presents a barrier to work. For example, as well as meeting the costs of long-term sick pay, group income protection insurance will include access to help from vocational rehabilitation experts, and access to advice and support with both short- and long-term health conditions and making reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010. An insurer might even help with the extra costs of keeping someone in work - such as providing or modifying equipment - on an ex-gratia basis.
“So, it’s time for government to go further, to be proactive and encourage more employers to move towards providing a better level of long-term sick pay and support during absence. This will mitigate the number of people whose health presents a barrier to work becoming economically inactive by getting them back to work and by financially supporting those who genuinely can’t go back or who need longer to do so. Group income protection providers can help deliver that outcome for employers and employees alike, whilst saving the state considerable effort and cost.”
Katharine Moxham also commented on the government’s response to its recent consultation on extending the spread of occupational health (OH) services to more employers, which has been mentioned in today’s Autumn Statement and published alongside it:
“We are strongly supportive of extending better workplace support for retaining disabled people and those with health conditions in work.
“We were concerned that the term ‘Occupational Health’ (OH) in this context could be drawn too narrowly and not reflect the fact that employers have far more at their disposal to achieve these aims, some of which can be more effective than pure OH, such as Group Income Protection Insurance (GIP), which is an insurance policy taken out by an employer to provide long-term sick pay. Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and other support services designed to keep people in work are generally embedded within a GIP policy but can also be purchased by an employer on a stand-alone basis.
“However, we’re pleased to note that government is ‘keen to learn from the several business and public sector organisations that suggested ways for OH measures to be inclusive of group income protection and wider work and health support,’ and that, ‘In the longer term there may also be potential to consider linkage with associated products that support employee health.’ GRiD looks forward to engaging with government to help them explore this further.
“Simply put, traditional OH is generally an assessment and advice service, whereas VR is a multi-disciplined approach incorporating interventions, case management and tangible practical help i.e. VR puts things into action, saving employers significant effort. Additionally, an employer will have other options to bring into play such as GIP, health insurance, an Employee Assistance Programme, health and wellness initiatives, other more specialised support services (say for cancer sufferers) and so on. All of these bring the benefits of prevention of ill health, improved retention and improved productivity for businesses and better health outcomes for employees, including remaining in or returning to work.
“More people in work and greater productivity in turn benefits society and reduces the tax burden.”
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SMUK Marketing and PR
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Notes for editors
Group Risk Development (GRiD) is the industry body for the group risk sector, promoting the value to UK businesses of providing financial protection for their staff, enhancing their well-being and improving employee engagement. Our membership includes insurers, reinsurers, intermediaries and those operating in (or with other interests in) the UK group risk market. Together this forms a collective wealth of experience built over many years. Under the chairmanship of Paul White (head of technical, Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing) GRiD aims to promote group risk through a collective voice to Government, policymakers, stakeholders and employers.
GRiD works with government departments and regulators involved in legislation and regulation affecting group risk benefits, and with other organisations involved in the benefits and financial protection arenas. GRiD also seeks to enhance the industry's standing by encouraging best practice and by participating in industry-wide initiatives such as the professional qualification in group risk managed jointly with the Chartered Insurance Institute.
GRiD’s media activity aims to generate a wider awareness and understanding of group risk products and their benefits for employers and employees.
GRiD's dedicated spokesperson, Katharine Moxham, provides expert media comment on a full range of group risk issues.
Follow Katharine Moxham on Twitter @KMoxham