According to a brand new survey of 2,000 SME workers from insurance and employee benefits advisers Drewberry, demand for workplace benefits from workers is up in a big way.

This is particularly true for benefits to help manage workers’ health and wellbeing — 51.1% of employees wanted their company to offer such benefits. With this in mind, it’s perhaps no surprise that worker demand for insurance benefits grew the most over this period compared to most other types of benefit.

For example, between the previous edition of this survey (which Drewberry conducted in 2019) and 2021, demand for:

  • Group Critical Illness Cover rose by 38.9%
  • Group Income Protection rose by 17.2%
  • Group Life Insurance rose by 13.8%
  • Company Health Insurance rose by 12.8%.

Demand for Services Often Included as Additional Benefits also rises

Over the same period, demand for certain other benefits also rose notably. These include:

  • Virtual GP / doctor services, which saw demand rise by a massive 264.2%
  • Retail / leisure activity discounts, which saw demand rise by 18.1%
  • Gym membership discounts, which saw demand rise by 12.9%.

Employee benefits advisers will of course spot that the above three benefits are sometimes provided with certain group risk and group health policies depending on the provider.

This means, when speaking to key decision makers in businesses about the benefits that will fit best with their workforce, advisers can raise the fact that many group risk policies, thanks to their additional benefits, will meet employee demand in both areas simultaneously. Effectively, it kills two birds with one group risk stone.

Key takeaways for advisers

Martyn Coates, Employee Benefits Adviser at Drewberry, says: “As an adviser, I’ve certainly noticed that there’s much more emphasis on additional benefits when I have my initial discussions with clients than there was previously. This is partly due to the simple fact that more insurers now offer such benefits alongside group risk products. With competition growing rapidly in this area as insurers seek to outdo rivals in terms of their offering, these benefits have therefore become a much more important part of the overall package.

“However, I would say that, as an industry, we need to do much more to promote these offerings as overall awareness of them is actually relatively low. For example, when I start to mention the free services alongside group risk policies, one of the most common responses for my clients is along the lines of, ‘I was actually thinking about looking into that separately’.

“If more employers knew about these additional benefits and that you often effectively get a two-for-one when taking out group risk policies, would we notice more enquiries going forward due to the impression of convenience and value for money that this provides?”

Employee Demand vs Reality

While there is considerable employee demand for insurance protection from their employer,  less than half (47.4%) of SMEs have introduced new benefits since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Even where companies have introduced benefits, there’s a mismatch between the benefits workers wanted the most (judged by increase in demand) and those employers have actually offered.

For example, when Drewberry asked SME workers which benefits their employer had introduced in 2020:

  • Only 9% said their company had introduced Group Life Insurance
  • Just 8% said their company had introduced Group Health Insurance
  • Only 6.5% said their company had introduced Group Income Protection.

Listening to just what your employers want is important in a world where nearly a quarter of employees said that employee benefits were an important factor for them when they were looking for a new job.

Final Thoughts

“While the percentage of SMEs which have introduced insurance benefits over the past year is relatively low, I’m still having conversations with employers which indicate that they’re a lot more focused on either getting cover in place for their workers or improving their existing coverage,” says Martyn. “This is because the circumstances under which employees might have to make use of the policy are, unfortunately, now much more common.

“For example, in 2020 we tragically saw a number of our group clients making a death claim on their Group Life Insurance policy as a direct result of an employee passing away from COVID-19.

“Of course, while employers are now more focused on providing benefits due to the pandemic, the economic backdrop as a result of COVID-19 hasn’t necessarily made this easy to implement financially. It’s here that it’s important for advisers to ensure employers understand just what they get for their money when they’re looking at group risk policies — thanks to additional benefits, workers get so much more than ‘just’ insurance coverage.

“Highlighting the value of the core protection plus free additional benefits has therefore become a key selling point for me as an adviser as I navigate the market conditions, we find ourselves in during these strange and uncertain times.”


To see the full research carried out by Drewberry CLICK HERE