More than a third of the UK workforce is now covered by group risk protection benefits, according to research by insurance provider Swiss Re.
Its Group Watch 2019 report reveals that the number of people covered in employer-sponsored group risk policies (life assurance, long-term disability income and critical illness cover) increased by 408,519 or 3.3% in 2018, with the total reaching almost 12.9 million members.
There was a 2.2% increase in the number of members of long-term disability income policies, a 4.8% rise in group critical illness members and a 4.7% increase in members of lump sum death-in-service policies.
In contrast, the number of people covered by dependants' death-in-service policies fell by 29.7%. Ron Wheatcroft, technical manager at Swiss Re and author of the report, noted that this business line has been in decline for many years, but 2018 saw an acceleration of the trend as larger policies closed and were replaced by lump-sum death benefits.
"Overall, the results are solid," Wheatcroft said.
"Respondents to the market survey among providers and intermediaries referred to the very uncertain business environment in which many of their clients were operating. This has seen a number of decisions deferred and a reluctance to take on new commitments until the business environment becomes clearer."
Welcoming the market growth, Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for industry body Group Risk Development (GRiD), said: "As supporting the health and wellbeing of staff, and, in particular, mental wellbeing, moves up the workplace agenda, employers are increasingly looking for help in how to do this, and a lot of the answers can be found in group risk protection products. The inherent support services that come with them significantly extend the reach of the help employers can give to their people."
But she added: "It is disappointing, however, that employers say that uncertainty around Brexit is holding them back from implementing group risk protection products. Workers still need a means of protecting their household's financial position against unexpected death, disability, injury or illness, regardless of politics."
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