Nearly three quarters of employers (73%) believe the pandemic will mean long-term changes in the way they support the health and wellbeing of staff, according to research* undertaken on behalf of GRiD, the industry body for the group risk protection sector. Although 14% of employers view this negatively, the majority (57%) believe this is a positive transformation.

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD said: “Supporting the health and wellbeing of staff is now integral for every employer, and where some employers may have not fully embraced this before the pandemic, it’s now a different story. It’s heartening that employers consider the measures they’ve put in place over the past twelve months to be positive changes and not simply short-term fixes to get through the crisis.”

All types of support will increase long-term

‘Checking-in’ with staff is likely to see the largest increase long-term, with 71% of employers believing the pandemic will mean a continued uplift in this more informal way of supporting staff. Long-term increases for support in the areas of improved communication (68%), improving engagement and utilisation of available support (65%), and mental health support (64%) are also most likely, according to the research undertaken amongst HRs. Indeed this is likely to become even more important with the move towards maintained home-working.

Indeed, employers predict an increase across all 10 areas of support which were included in the research. Other areas include investment in providing support for physical wellbeing (57%), social wellbeing (54%), financial wellbeing (52%), improving the choice of benefits (49%) and providing support for dependants (48%).

Specific Covid-19 support

Two thirds (64%) of employers believe they will increase the specific support available for Covid-19-related concerns over the long-term. During the pandemic, the group risk industry has been called upon for financial, physical and mental support, and specifically in relation to Covid-19. As it’s an issue we may need to learn to live with for some time, long-term support will be important, especially for those struggling to make a full recovery.

Moxham continued: “Although vaccines and easing of lockdown restrictions are providing some light at the end of the tunnel, we’re a long way from this being fully over. It’s good that employers recognise they can’t simply retract Covid-19 support in the immediate future.”

Employee benefits will be vital in implementing this increased long-term support for staff, and GRiD believes that employers may be pleasantly surprised with all the additional support that is now available to employees. From healthcare to group risk (employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness), through to specialist wellbeing help, support is available that meets all the areas that employers show a willingness to provide greater support for now and into the future.

Moxham concluded: “Before buying or renewing a contract, it’s important and indeed advisable that employers get to grips with all that’s now available. By engaging with specialist providers, advisers and suppliers, employers will be able to find out how benefits have been adapted in light of the pandemic, before selecting solutions that are most suitable within their own organisation.”

As employees’ lives have changed beyond all recognition, the long-established group risk model has provided financial security for many, which was of course its original purpose. However, group risk has been remodelled over recent years to include many additions aimed at supporting the health and wellbeing requirements of employees, and the current additions of entirely new Covid-19 and ‘long Covid’ programmes means that it forms the very essence of a valuable employee benefit.