Employee privacy fears hit group protection usage

If takeup of employee benefits is low within your organisation, it could be that your employees don't know about or don't understand the benefits available. Or it could be that they have concerns about the privacy ramifications of claiming.

To maximise participation, employers need to communicate with their workforce about the benefits available and also allay any concerns they may have about using them, such as how the data is used by HR.

According to a study by Legal & General, 36% of employees do not feel that group protection policies are relevant to their health, wealth and happiness, and of these, 20% are concerned that their employer may get to know too much about their health or private life.

Among all group protection benefits, respondents rated employee assistance programmes (EAPs) the highest in terms of lack of relevance to their, or their family's, wellbeing.

One in five (19%) employees who feel that EAPs are not relevant cited privacy concerns as a barrier to usage, rising to 23% among women.

A further 24% said this benefit just doesn't interest them, while 18% claim they are never off sick so don't require it, and 18% don't think their employer adequately communicates the relevance of the benefit.

Respondents were also unsure of the relevance of income protection (25%) and critical illness cover (30%) to their wellbeing, with around one in six citing privacy concerns.

Colin Fitzgerald, distribution director for group protection at Legal & General, believes that privacy fears may reflect low trust in the employer rather than in the benefits themselves.

"Employers are investing in their employee benefits with what they believe is the best interests of employees at heart," he said.

"It is worrying to find that so many employees don't connect the relevance of these benefits to their wellbeing. More stark a finding is that privacy concerns are a barrier to many employees' usage of certain benefits.

"The reality is that employers offer these products to help their people be well, get better and be supported. And usage will never reflect badly on the employee. This is where a strong culture of trust in the workplace is so important."

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for group risk industry body GRiD, said: "Often, when employees don't trust something it's because they don't fully understand or don't remember how it can help them or how it fits in with the overall picture."

She added: "Group protection is absolutely confidential and employees won't be disadvantaged by taking advantage of them. In fact, the opposite is true in fact as they can provide invaluable help, advice and support for not only the hardest of times but also for things like moving house, flooding or finding emergency childcare."

Posted on April 19th 2021

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