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17 April 2023

Guardian’s Income Protection Premium Waiver helps policyholders in more ways than one

Guardian’s Income Protection Premium Waiver helps policyholders in more ways than one

Phil Deacon
Head of Claims

Income Protection cover is an important safety net for people to help them pay for the basics when they’re too ill to work. It’s a tremendous relief to have this financial protection kick in when they need it, but few clients want to be in this position for long. They want to recover and get on with their life as best they can.

With Guardian’s launch into Income Protection, a question I was asked recently was: ‘Why is it that, for 2 people in the same job who suffer the same illness, one person recovers quickly and gets back to work after a few weeks, while the other is not able to go back to work for 12 months or longer?’

The simple answer is that people and their individual circumstances are all unique. There are different biological, psychological and social (BPS) factors at play which comprise the disease itself and the person’s existing bodily health, their mental and emotional health which links to health-related behaviours, as well as the people and communities that support them including the availability of appropriate treatment.

For Income Protection, our Premium Waiver after just 4 weeks also means that with customers who notify us in a timely manner that they need their premiums waived, we’ll be in a position to support them earlier, which we believe leads to a far better customer outcome.

These wider factors have an important role to play in recovery and rehabilitation, including how someone responds to their diagnosis, their overall outlook, as well as their work circumstances, including attitude to work and their personal job satisfaction. Everyone’s situation is different and these differences should be incorporated when considering how to best support clients making an Income Protection claim.

This belief has guided the thinking behind our bespoke approach to claims support for Income Protection. Informed by our own experience of delivering HALO to our life and critical illness policyholders, as well as our work with external consultant, Monica Garcia, Guardian’s approach to providing Income Protection claims support is to look beyond the medical diagnosis or injury that has triggered the claim to assess not just the illness, but the wider factors informing how claimants might be thinking, feeling, acting and responding to that illness.

This ultimately informs how we can best help them to recover and rehabilitate, adopting a holistic and tailored approach that is bespoke for each individual customer. In layman’s terms, it means looking the bigger picture of a person’s life and circumstances to understand how best to help them on their recovery journey, supporting them on the steps they need to take to return to employment and restore their full income.

A number of insurers recognise and adopt a BPS approach, but because our Premium Waiver after just 4 weeks comes as standard on all Income Protection policies, regardless of the Income Protection deferred period, customers – and their advisers – have an incentive to tell us about sickness absence as soon as possible.. Notification at this early stage means that we’re in a much better position to identify those customers most in need of early support across the full range of biological, psychological and social factors – even though we may be 11 months or more away from their deferred period expiring and a full Income Protection claim being made. This means, where we see a need to, we can help prevent any of these BPS factors from worsening, which can undermine and impede their quality of life and their eventual return to work.

Obviously, there will be cases where no immediate intervention is necessary; where there is already good support for the policyholder in place for instance from their workplace, through their GP, and/or from their family and other support networks. However, with other policyholders, where we can see that some of these needs are not being addressed or are not likely to be addressed in a timely manner, and the client is at risk of developing further preventable problems associated with their illness before they make a full claim, it puts us in an ideal position to help.

One example is where back pain has rendered someone unable to sit in the same position for extended periods. Depending on the type of role the person had before they may be out of work for some time, and may even never be able to go back into exactly the same job. Despite this, it’s clearly not the right outcome for the customer to assume that this condition will prohibit them from ever again participating in the workforce, and fulfilling their work potential. Yet, if they have no support for over a year and form an identity of themselves based on their illness and not being able to work, then this also undermines their future employment opportunities.

In this example, our approach would be to look into how best to provide immediate support which could play a role in helping the client come to terms with their physical change and supporting them to regain a positive outlook about their future, including return to work support, through vocational rehabilitation. By helping them, perhaps to find coping mechanisms to manage their pain early in their diagnosis, and focusing on what they can do and what can be done to overcome any physical limitations, we aim to help put them on a pathway that leads to greater personal empowerment, and in due course to future alternative suitable work, depending on the medical condition.

This is where our bespoke approach to claims support comes into its own. Our HALO claims service for Income Protection has been designed specifically to support clients with whatever they need to aid their eventual return to work. Like our claims support service for life and critical illness cover, HALO for Income Protection focuses on both physical and emotional factors and gives our claims team discretion to provide bespoke support that fits the needs of the customer.

For Income Protection, our Premium Waiver after just 4 weeks also means that with customers who notify us in a timely manner that they need their premiums waived, we’ll be in a position to support them earlier, which we believe leads to a far better customer outcome.

 


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