Employee disconnect from group protection impacts wellbeing agenda, reveals Legal & General

Only 16% of employees in December 2020 considered their Employee Assistance Programmes to be very relevant to their health, wealth and happiness

Just 16% of UK employees with access to Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) consider it to be very relevant to their – or their family’s – health, wealth and happiness right now, falling to 11% among male employees, according to the latest research findings from Legal & General.

Additionally, a large proportion of employees are sitting on the fence when it comes to the relevance of Group Income Protection (IP) and Group Critical Illness Cover (CIC) to their health, wealth and happiness, saying it’s only ‘fairly relevant’. The provider says this suggests that benefits are still, on the whole, seen by employees as standalone products and not as a broader package of services that can enhance their wellbeing.  This perception, the insurer says, will be limiting the impact of companies’ wellbeing programmes.

Opinium, commissioned by Legal & General, surveyed over 1,000 UK employees who have access to either one or a combination of Group IP, CIC or an EAP. When asked about relevance to their – or their family’s – health, wealth and happiness, it found:

  • Employee Assistance Programme: Half (50%) said ‘fairly relevant’; Over a third (34%) said ‘not relevant’; just 16% said ‘very relevant’.
  • Income protection: Two fifths (43%) said ‘fairly relevant’; 32% said ‘very relevant’; a quarter (25%) said ‘not relevant’.
  • Critical Illness Cover: Just under half (47%) said ‘fairly relevant’; 30% said ‘not relevant’; 23% said ‘very relevant’.

It comes at a time when 9 in 10 CEOs believe wellbeing initiatives are key to driving long-term changes to their business models.1

And, in line with this, HR leaders state that the top objective for benefits strategy is now employee engagement (59%); approximately 75% higher than the second most important objective, namely cost management (34%). Yet, only 44% of businesses have a formalised health and wellbeing strategy in place, with a further 33% planning to introduce one in the next 12-18 months.2

Colin Fitzgerald, Distribution Director – Group Protection, Legal & General, said:

“On the one hand, the findings are good news because they indicate that employees recognise the value of group protection, to a certain extent at least. On the other hand, they also suggest that benefits on the whole still aren’t being connected in employees’ minds to the wellbeing agenda and what their employer is providing to help them be well and, when needed, get better.

“Wellbeing was slowly rising up the corporate agenda pre-pandemic, but it is now the primary driver for benefits in the minds of employers. Covid-19 has accelerated many businesses plans here as employers try to support their employees’ health and wellbeing on a remote basis, against a backdrop of rising digital fatigue, social isolation, work related stress and burnout. The fact that, in the middle of a pandemic, only 16% of employees consider EAPs ‘very relevant’ shows that more needs to be done to communicate this service in a way that is more tailored and relatable.

“The trouble is though, in the majority of workplaces, benefits are still considered on a product basis as an insurance solution when things go wrong. We need to work together as an industry to help employers better integrate benefit and wellbeing agendas, with an emphasis on prevention.”

Reimagining Group protection

The research forms part of ongoing work by Legal & General to ‘reimagine group protection’ – and help close the UK protection gap of unmet needs.3

These latest findings follow on from research last year by Legal & General, which found a correlation between size of company and employee trust in employers to look after their wellbeing; the smaller the company, the greater the trust. At the same time, the same research also revealed a disconnect – namely, the larger the company, the most likely to have a wellbeing strategy in place, but the least likely to be trusted. The provider wanted to investigate what is causing this disconnect, specifically focusing on employee perception of the ‘relevance’ of group protection as part of wellbeing strategy.


Legal & General commissioned Opinium to carry out this research, involving 1,087 UK employees who have access to either IP, CIC or EAP. Dec 2020.

1 PwC CEO Panel Survey 2020 – UK Findings, August 2020 https://www.pwc.co.uk/ceo-survey/ceo-panel-survey.html#purposeful-changes

2  Aon, UK Benefits & Trends Survey 2021, Jan 2021, https://www.aon.com/unitedkingdom/media-room/articles/uk-benefits-and-trends-survey-2021-covid-19.jsp

3 Around 1 in 10 (11%) of the workforce is covered by group income protection, Swiss Re Group Watch 2020