Group Life Assurance (GLA) is the most commonly provided of the group risk protection products (employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness) – including that insurers won’t pay out if a loved one commits suicide.
“Suicide renders GLA Invalid”
Contrary to widespread belief among employees and some employers, GLA does provide cover for death by suicide.
During Dying Matters week, 14 – 20 May 2018, GRiD, the industry body for the group risk protection sector, wants to address some of the wrongly held perceptions about GLA, in particular the view that someone’s family would not receive a pay-out should their loved one take their own life.
In the UK, around 6,000 people die by suicide each year, meaning a great number of families are left devastated by their loss.
GLA not only helps families avoid financial hardship (the average pay-out for a GLA claim during 2017 was £113,479) but it can also provide bereavement and other support.
By dispelling the myths around GLA and suicide, GRiD hopes that employers may see GLA as a more comprehensive product than they may have originally thought, and that more will consider offering the benefit to all their staff.
“It’s only money”
In addition to the financial payment, many GLA providers include extra help and support for employees and their families, perhaps via an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which can be a great support for mental health issues and in the prevention of suicide and attempted suicide.
Support may also be provided for the managers within the organisation around issues such as managing staff with mental health conditions and supporting staff coming to terms with a bereavement.
This help is available on a daily basis, not just when a claim arises. Some insurance providers now also give access to a vast array of online tools, portals and hubs aimed at improving mental resilience and giving advice and guidance to employers and line managers. Often these can be freely available online for anyone to access, customer or not.
“Costs are prohibitive”
Another commonly held view is that GLA is expensive, with many employers believing their employees would prefer the budget to be spent elsewhere on more immediate rewards and benefits. In fact, GLA typically costs less than half a per cent of payroll and HR departments would be hard pushed to find other benefits that offer such good value with so much inherent extra support.
Dave Middleton, managing director at Aon Employee Benefits Warwick, and a chair of one of GRiD’s committees, has had personal experience of a family death by suicide. He said:
“When someone close to you dies suddenly in this way, you experience a rollercoaster of emotions and it can take some time for life to return to anything that you recognise as normal. During this time, life’s costs and bills accumulate and can become an enormous source of stress for the grieving family if there is no financial plan in place to deal with them. Financial support from an insurance pay-out not only helps cover funeral costs but can also give family members the financial breathing space to come to terms with their loss over a period of time, without immediately having to return to work to maintain an income.
“Group Life Assurance is a really accessible product with low premiums that employers should be confident in offering to staff knowing that it has more hidden benefits and fewer exemptions than is often presumed.”