The latest info from Zurich tends to suggest that major insurers are now seeing the after effects of the pandemic and by that, we mean the stress of being masked up and locked down, told to work from home, told to keep away from people and forced to wait months for a GP appointment or NHS consultant to invesigate health worries. Add to that the fear that the vaccine may have caused extra damage to your health in terms of adverse reactions and Life/health insurance brands have got a problem.
The upside for health insurers is that people have started to realise that if they want rapid treatment they need to have private medical insurance, or simply pay upfront – as dentists now demand. The bad news is that employee benefits packages will need a complete re-think in a post-pandemic world. Here’s the word from Zurich;
As employees continue to struggle with the fallout from the pandemic, data released today shows an increasing number tapped into the health and wellbeing benefits offered by their employer and provided by Zurich UK during 2021.
Specifically, analysis of Group Protection customer data by Zurich’s Corporate Risk team revealed a 50% year-on-year increase in the number of calls to its Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) in the last 12 months. The EAP is available to Zurich Corporate Risk customers who provide access to their employees as part of their benefits package. Notably, and perhaps linked to the emergence of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, November 2021 saw the highest volume of helpline calls over the 12- month period. Calls were up 16% from the previous month and nearly double (98%) the number made in November 2020.
Anxiety was the top reason for seeking help (seeing an increase in call volumes of 67%) but staff wanting advice for problems with their significant other also rose by 26%. Additionally, employees seeking guidance (non-legal) on separation and divorce issues jumped 73% year-on-year. Job stress and bereavement, were other major triggers for employees to seek help, with call volumes relating to these issues increasing by 48% and 120% respectively.
END OF FURLOUGH STRESS
Encouragingly calls relating to work related stress reduced dramatically during October and November 2021. This coincided with the end of the Government Job Retention Scheme (Furlough) and a general trend of employees transitioning back to their workplace.
The rise in EAP calls follows claims data released by Zurich UK in May 2021, showing 28% of all new group income protection claims for the previous year were for mental illness, making it the second most common reason for people to seek support, after cancer.
Nick Homer, Head of Group Risk at Zurich UK said:
“It’s highly likely that non-work factors such as problems with relationships, will affect everyone at some point in their working lives. But last year, there was a notable leap in people seeking support for relationship issues – which may be linked to the stress of the pandemic and home working. By offering employees somewhere to seek confidential and independent advice, it can help them to address such issues before they spiral.”
“We have also seen huge increases in requests for support for anxiety and work-related stress, which can be key contributors to workplace absence. Early identification of any illnesses, issues or mental health concerns can lead to swifter intervention, which in turn maximises the likelihood of a continued presence at work or the employee making a successful return. It is in an employer’s interest to offer the proactive and preventative care that will enable them to get the best from their employees, boost productivity and reduce the risk of mental-health related sickness or absence.”