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Are Employers Ready To Keep Employees Fit For work?

Cigna UK HealthCare Benefits (Cigna UKHB) shares findings from new research on employer readiness to adopt the Department of Work and Pension’s (DWP) new Fit for Work occupational health service. 

As the DWP is currently rolling out their new Fit for Work occupational health service, Cigna UKHB commissioned research through YouGov to check awareness and engagement levels amongst both employers and General Practioners (GPs). Worryingly, more than 75% of employers and 60% of GPs are not aware of the DWP’s new service, which provides free occupational health information and assessments. Even fewer are aware that the DWP scheme also allows tax relief up to £500 of medical treatment per employee each year. 

Cigna UKHB Managing Director Phil Austin commented, "The DWP initiatives to help employers with the rising costs of sickness absence are definitely a positive step. However, the Cigna research points to a need for more widespread communication on the Fit for Work scheme. At the same time, employers and GPs need better understanding of each other’s roles in managing sickness absence."    

The DWP is aiming for the Fit for Work service to be fully operational across the UK by late 2015. It relies on GPs referring individuals to the service if they are going to be off work for four weeks or more.  However, the Cigna research shows not only are the majority of GPs unaware of the service, those that are aware don’t always think it is their role to make the referrals. Meanwhile, employer awareness of the scheme is lowest amongst small businesses. This is particularly concerning as they have been identified as having the greatest need for the support available through the Fit for Work scheme.

Having a proactive approach to managing sickness absence is an important aspect of keeping employees fit for work. But employers also need to think about the preventive measures that can help avoid episodes of sickness in the first place. These include health education, health screening and private medical plans.

For more information on how Cigna can help download Cigna’s ‘Assessing the Fit for Work service rollout’ article.


Study Reveals Strong Link Between Employee Engagement and Employee Perceptions of Total Rewards

Aon Hewitt Study Reveals Strong Link Between Employee Engagement and Employee Perceptions of Total Rewards. Honest Leader Communication Also Influences Engagement

With rising health benefit costs and relatively flat wage increases deflating employees' perceptions of their work environment, new survey data from Aon Hewitt, the global talent, retirement and health solutions business of Aon plc (NYSE: AON), shows a strong relationship between employees' perceptions of their Total Rewards package and their overall engagement levels.

Aon Hewitt recently surveyed more than 2,500 U.S. employees at mid-size and large U.S. employers to determine their perspectives and attitudes about their employment experience―including values and culture, work environment, engagement, total rewards and communication.

The survey found that 60 percent of engaged employees say their Total Rewards overall (everything an employer provides to an employee, including pay, benefits, and the work environment) are above or well above what other employers offer, while only one-quarter (24 percent) of those who are disengaged say so. Similarly among engaged employees, half (51 percent) view career development/training programs as better than what other employers offer, while only 19 percent of disengaged employees would rate these programs as better competitively.

"While we consistently see employees ranking pay as the most valuable reward they earn from their employer, it's not the only thing that matters," said Ray Baumruk, partner, employee research leader, Aon Hewitt. "Engaged employees value a more balanced, less oriented toward pay-only, rewards package compared to those who are disengaged."

Understanding and Perceived Competitiveness of Total Rewards
According to Aon Hewitt's survey, paid time off (84 percent) and base pay (83 percent) were the most understood of all Total Rewards programs, while bonus (64 percent), career development/training (61 percent) and work/life balance (60 percent) were among the least understood.

"Employees are telling us that nothing about their Total Rewards package stands out," said Baumruk. "This lack of differentiation could be damaging to attraction, and many of the least understood programs are also the ones viewed by employees as less competitive." 

While overall awareness and understanding was strong, perception of competitiveness could be improved. Employees rated their current employer's paid time off programs (42 percent) and pension plans (41 percent) as above the competition. Bonus incentives/commissions (30 percent), base pay (27 percent), career development/training programs (22 percent) and work/life balance (20 percent) were less likely to be viewed as competitive relative to other companies.

"Companies could see improvements in employee engagement by increasing awareness and understanding of these programs," said Pam Hein, partner, Communication Consulting, Aon Hewitt. "Often providing Total Rewards statements and related web tools can help foster greater understanding.  Administering engaging quizzes or quick assessments to employees can also draw attention to rewards that may be undervalued or misunderstood."

Total Rewards by Gender
According to Aon Hewitt's data, men are more likely than women to perceive their Total Rewards to be competitive. More specifically, men are more likely to believe their pay programs are better than others (39 percent) and their bonus opportunity is better than what other organizations provide (38 percent). Male participants are also more likely to say the following rewards are well above or above what other organizations offer:

  • Savings and company-match programs (40 percent)

  • Work/life balance programs (38 percent)

  • Life and disability insurance (32 percent)

Total Rewards by Generation
Perceived competitiveness of Total Rewards is also higher among Millennials than other generations, particularly on career development/training programs (41 percent).

Better Communication Improves Engagement
According to the study's findings, there is a significant gap between the communication perceptions of engaged and disengaged employees. Among engaged employees, more than three-quarters (77 percent) feel encouraged to share ideas while only 22 percent of those who are disengaged would agree. Similar gaps exist when considering how open and honest senior leaders are viewed, and how managers share and provide information with employees.

Communication Perception (strongly agree/agree)

Total Population


Not Engaged

Encouraged to share ideas




Senior leaders open and honest




Managers provide relevant and valuable input on performance or work experience




Aon Hewitt's study revealed that most employees feel they receive the right amount of communication on benefits and job-related topics. Employees feel they receive too little communication related to important aspects of engagement such as career development (42 percent), recognition of efforts and achievement (46 percent), incentive/bonus pay (40 percent) and work/life balance or stress management (40 percent).

"The most engaged employees are the ones who are encouraged to share ideas and who witness open, honest communication from senior leadership," said Hein. "Offering communication training for managers and leaders, regularly sharing key messages, and instituting performance- and reward-related metrics, related to communication from managers and leaders, will be essential to achieve improvement in this area."


Aviva Extends RedArc Benefit To Group Critical Illness Customers

Customers with Aviva’s group critical illness cover will be able to access practical advice and emotional support following a claim, due to the extension of a successful partnership with the RedArc Personal Nurse Adviser service. RedArc has been supporting Aviva’s individual critical illness customers over the last year and the service will be available to group critical illness customers at no extra cost from 1 January 2015.

The service offers customers in claim access to a dedicated personal nurse adviser who can provide practical guidance and emotional support for as long as required. In addition, the service can arrange a second UK medical opinion for the customers’ health condition.

Telephone based support

The telephone support service complements mainstream medical treatment and is operated by qualified nurses with experience of supporting individuals through critical illness. It is designed to help individuals deal with the impact of their condition by offering a listening ear, practical information and emotional support.

In addition, when appropriate, the personal nurse adviser may also arrange additional help in the form of a specialist nurse home visit, therapy or counselling.

Second medical opinion

Customers are also able to have a comprehensive, independent assessment of their medical condition through the RedArc service. Arranged by the customer’s Personal Nurse Adviser, this is sourced through either the NHS or the UK private medical sector and enables the patient to have a face to face consultation. Customers can be reassured that the service is independent and completely confidential and no information is shared with Aviva.

Steve Bridger, Group Risk Director at Aviva UK Health, said “Getting appropriate emotional and practical support when you’re diagnosed with a critical illness is just as important as the financial support you get from a protection policy, so we’re delighted to extend free access to RedArc’s services to our group critical illness customers. The enhancement marks our continued focus on delivering added value services to our Group Risk customers, such as an Employee Assistance Programme for our Group Income Protection customers and bereavement helpline for Group Life customers.”

In 2013, Aviva paid £173.2m in group protection claims, providing financial support for over 2,600 customers and their families. The most common causes of group critical illness claims are cancer, heart attack and stroke.

RedArc services are available to all customers covered on an Aviva Group Critical Illness plan from 1 January 2015.


Pacific Prime Reveal Corporate Employees Require Better Singapore Health Insurance Benefits

As an end of 2014 review reveals an increase in health care costs, Pacific Prime reports on the increasing value of providing employee health insurance benefits in Singapore.

Pacific Prime have released an update on the current state of employee health benefits for corporates as part of their compensation packages in Singapore. The agency have claimed that over time, expat packages inclusive of added benefits such as housing, medical insurance and return flights home have mostly diminished in order to achieve reduced costs in corporate structures. By eliminating inclusive expat packages, there has been a shift of focus onto the next generation of locally-hired expatriates, who now compete for corporate roles.

There has however been a reported resurgence in the value found in Singapore health insurance benefits, with HR directors now frequently taking into consideration the evaluations of certain medical insurance plans for their employees. This revival in the industry in a place like Singapore has mainly come about due to foreigners being unable to benefit from the socialized healthcare, and it being “impossible to hire or retain expats without providing solid benefits for medical insurance,” according to the Corporate Sales Team at Pacific Prime Singapore.

With the subsequent exposure to risk somewhat higher for expatriates, the standard ‘Hospitalization Surgical’ benefits offered on ‘local-hire’ contracts are not sufficient to cover most treatments or surgeries in hospitals. Pacific Prime demonstrate the distinction between corporate expats and Permanent Residents, who benefit from the CPF (Central Provident Fund) which mitigates costs. On the other hand, with medical care costs increasing at a substantial rate, and a reported estimated medical inflation at a 9% increase per year (an MRI that cost SG$1,000 in 2010 would now cost SG$1,500), expats with no opportunity to subsidize are being charged the full cost of treatments.

There is an insistence that HR managers must be aware of the needs and requirements of foreigners and the necessity of medical insurance benefits as part of their compensation. In light of this, Pacific Prime have begun to offer new ‘hybrid’ solutions for corporate employers in Asia, where employees are assigned specific policies based on category of class (seniority). This is hoped to lead to improvements for local nationals as well, since their benefits are likely to be reviewed similarly as a result.

Attractive benefit plans increase staff retention, and where employers used to provide basic cover in a city concerned with rising medical costs, comprehensive insurance benefits are needed for employers to enhance their hiring potential.


More Than 3.7 Million UK Employees Could Either Have Paid-For Benefits They Were Unaware Of, Or Are Missing Out On The Chance To Have Protection Insurance Or A Pension(2)

Almost 1 in 7 UK employees are in the dark when it comes to pensions and insurance benefits available through their workplace, according to new research1. Figures from a YouGov survey commissioned by Friends Life found that nearly 15% of workers did not know what financial products their employer provided. When expanded out across the UK workforce, it means more than 3.7 million UK employees could either have paid-for benefits they were unaware of, or are missing out on the chance to have protection insurance or a pension2.

However, there is a desire to get financial products via the workplace. When asked which benefits people would consider taking out through their employer, pensions, life insurance, critical illness cover and income protection were among the most popular answers3.

“It’s got to come down to communication,” said Anna Spender, Head of Group Protection Proposition. “Employees need to know what’s on offer and how it can help them. Giving them a few simple pieces of information will allow them to make more informed decisions. “Not only are workers potentially missing out on really valuable benefits, but employers aren’t getting the full value of the package they’re offering. Life insurance, critical illness cover and income protection can make employees feel valued by their company and can play an important part in any staff wellness programmes. But if employees don’t even know they’re available employers aren’t maximising the good will these benefits can create in staff.”

The workers surveyed said employer contributions and subsidies were the most popular factor in encouraging them to buy a financial product via their employer. Getting a better price or deal than is available on the high street was also a common choice4. Research has also showed that nearly 60% of people would rely on their partner's salary or savings5 if they were diagnosed with cancer and unable to work.

“Employers could be the answer to plugging at least part of the protection gap we have in this country,” added Anna Spender. “Employees can be offered some form of cover as part of their terms and conditions or through flexible benefit arrangements where they can purchase in accordance with their needs. Either way, it can help staff to feel more secure knowing they have some financial back up should the worst happen.

“Everyone should know what is available to them. Having almost 1 in 7 unaware of what’s on offer is too many.”

1 YouGov survey of 12,260 UK adults commissioned by Friends Life (2013-2014) 2 ONS Labour Market Statistics (Oct 2014) says there are 26,027,000 employees in the UK. 26,027,000 ÷ 100 x 14.5 (percentage of people who ‘don’t know’ what financial services products their employer officers) = 3,773,915 3 YouGov survey of 3,922 UK adults commissioned by Friends Life 4 YouGov survey of 10,784 UK adults commissioned by Friends Life 5 Survey of 2,000 people carried out by One Poll on behalf of Friends Life (Q1 2014)



Crew Rescued From Sinking Cargo Vessel

Falmouth Coastguard has been assisting a cargo vessel which had six people on board and began sinking 12 miles east of the Lizard this morning.

Lizard and Falmouth RNLI Lifeboats and a rescue helicopter from RNAS Culdrose attempted to pump water out of vessel, the 'Sea Breeze', with their own pumps. Other merchant vessels, who heard the mayday relay broadcast from Falmouth Coastguard, also stood by in case they were required.

The Sea Breeze is an 87-metre Barbados flagged cargo vessel with six crew onboard. It is carrying 2,750 tons of limestone and was bound for Shoreham at the time of the incident.

Alex Greig, Falmouth Coastguard Watch Manager says, "We received the mayday broadcast from the 'Sea Breeze' at 7.00 am and were able to get lifeboats and the helicopter on scene quickly, along with other vessels that were in the vicinity. The lifeboats and helicopter pumped water off the cargo vessel, whilst HMS Tyne was on its way with commercial pumps. However, unfortunately, the smaller pumps could not keep up with the ingress of water and the crew had to abandon ship at 8.40 am. Five of the crew are now safely ashore. A couple of them have minor injuries. The captain has remained on scene on board HMS Tyne to help with the salvage operation."


Group Income Protection Clients To Get Improved Employee Counselling Services

  • Employee Assistance Programme significantly improves workplace absence
  • Over half of EAP users say they would have missed work without counselling
  • 87% of Aviva Group Income Protection employees returned to work after active early intervention

Aviva has broadened its free Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) for Group Income Protection clients, so that all employees within an organisation can now access invaluable counselling and information services. In addition, any employees with personal or professional concerns are now able to access more face-to-face counselling sessions as standard on their employer’s cover.

The EAP service, provided by Capita Health and Wellbeing, is now available to all staff who are directly employed by an organisation with an Aviva Group Income Protection (GIP) plan, not just those employees who are covered on the income protection policy.

Aviva has also increased the number of face-to-face professional counselling sessions available as standard for all employees whose company has a GIP plan, to support them with difficulties in their lives and aid absence from work. Now, six sessions rather than four are available alongside unlimited 24 hour telephone access to qualified advisers.

Aviva has seen a 75% increase in the use of the EAP service across its corporate customer portfolio in the last four years, with additional data1 from the provider Capita Health and Wellbeing evidencing the significant benefits of the service to both employees and their employers.

Before using the services, around half (47%) of employees experiencing some difficulty in their life said that their ability to cope with the demands of their job was poor or very poor. After using the EAP services, only 4% still felt this way, with around two thirds (64%) saying their ability to cope with work was now good or very good.

Moreover, over half of EAP users (52%) stated that without the counselling services, their concerns would have caused them to miss work. Over two thirds (67%) said their worries would have caused difficulties in concentrating at work without the counselling they received.

Using the EAP service also helps improve employee’s satisfaction with their personal lives and ability to deal with their problems. For those with a difficulty, three out of five employees (59%) stated their satisfaction with their personal life was poor or very poor before they had counselling. After, only 7% still felt dissatisfied, with 57% stating their satisfaction with their personal life was good or very good.

Similarly, 69% of employees with a difficulty said their ability to deal with their problems before having counselling was poor or very poor. Post counselling, 61% said their ability to deal with problems was good or very good, with only 4% still experiencing a poor ability to cope.

Steve Bridger, head of group risk at Aviva Health, said: "There is compelling evidence that EAP services make a significant difference to employees who need some support in managing life's ups and downs. This in turn is demonstrably helping them cope with their work and prevent absence. We believe these services should be available to as many people as possible and we're delighted to extend our free EAP offer to all employees who work directly for our GIP clients.

"The EAP counselling services are used alongside Aviva's own in-house clinical rehabilitation expertise and last year, where we actively intervened early, we were able to return 87% of employees back to work.”

The EAP offers employees access to their own personal support system, professional advice or counselling on any aspect of their personal or professional life. Qualified counsellors provide confidential advice and support on any concerns and help deal with anxiety or stress. Medical services are also available to employees who need help or guidance on health problems, while information services are available to help with everyday work and personal challenges, including managing money, relationships and family life and retirement.

The new level of EAP benefits apply with immediate effect to both existing policyholders of Aviva's current GIP and any new clients that choose Aviva as their GIP provider.


Willis Strengthens Human Capital Capabilities in Alabama With Key Acquisition

  • Broker Acquires Employee Benefits Consulting Division of Capital Strategies Group

Willis North America (WNA), a unit of Willis Group Holdings (NYSE:WSH) announced today it has acquired the employee benefits consulting division of Birmingham, AL-based Capital Strategies Group, Inc. Capital Strategies Group's employee benefits consulting division, led by George Gould, has been a leading provider of employee benefits plan design, consulting and brokerage services to some of the leading firms in Alabama and throughout the Southeast for over 17 years.

Capital Strategies' employee benefits consulting team will merge its operations with Willis of Alabama, Inc. and continue to serve clients out of Willis's Birmingham office. Capital Strategies' George Gould will serve as Senior Vice President and report to Rob Allen, President of Willis of Alabama, Inc. Willis of Alabama provides human capital and risk management solutions to a wide range of industries supported by approximately 130 Associates from offices in Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery and Madison.

Willis's Human Capital Practice delivers innovative solutions to help organizations manage and maximize their human capital investment. The industry-leading practice offers teams of experts specializing in customized employer solutions including best-in-market insurance programs, Total Rewards consulting, turnkey wellness and employee engagement programs, consultation on legislative and compliance issues and a private health insurance exchange platform, the Willis Advantage.

Commenting on the transaction, Rob Allen said, "We are thrilled to expand our footprint in the human capital space in Alabama and we see ample opportunity for growth. Organizations are facing a rapidly evolving environment with respect to health care, employee benefit programs, regulation and talent -- all while trying to control costs. In this context, we see strong demand for innovative solutions. Willis has long admired and respected George and his team, and we are pleased to have our two practices join together as one." George Gould said, "We are excited to combine forces with Willis to build on our success over the past 17 years and join a global, state-of-the-art firm. Willis greatly enhances the resources and depth of expertise we can now offer our clients."


Afghanistan Travel Warnings: Credit Cards Not Accepted - ATMs in Military Camps

Carry sufficient cash in US Dollars for your visit. Credit cards are not accepted. Some ATMs in Kabul dispense dollars as well as the local currency, Afghanis. Banks are closed on Fridays, but there are ATMs in various locations in Wazir Akbar Khan and elsewhere. ATMs are located at military camps, but unless you have an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) pass you will not be able to enter. Travellers’ cheques are not widely accepted and it can take a fortnight for them to clear.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.


International SOS And China National Petroleum Corporation Establish Strategic Partnership

China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and International SOS have confirmed their partnership by signing a Global Strategic Partnership Framework.

This partnership dates back to 2000, when International SOS provided global medical and security assistance support to BGP, one of CNPC’s subsidiaries. Since then, both parties have continued to explore collaboration opportunities within the CNPC Group and other subsidiaries. International SOS currently provides CNPC Group and its subsidiaries with world-class medical and travel security support in over 30 medical staffing projects across 12 countries.

Mr. Zhang Xin, General Manager of the Foreign Affairs Department of CNPC received a delegation led by Mr. Laurent Sabourin, Group Managing Director of International SOS. The signing ceremony took place at CNPC’s global headquarters in Beijing, China. Mr. Zhang Xin and Mr. John Williams, International SOS Managing Director of China, were present to sign the framework. Mr. Zhang and Mr. Sabourin discussed how both parties can strengthen this partnership further.

By signing the new framework, they confirmed their commitment to forming a stronger global collaboration where International SOS will provide comprehensive medical and security support to CNPC’s expatriates and international travellers.

As China’s leading oil and gas company, CNPC is continuously expanding its global operations and now has a presence in over 70 countries. Many are in extremely challenging regions where medical and security support is inadequate. The wellbeing of its employees has always been CNPC’s top priority. This framework further demonstrates CNPC’s commitment to provide Duty of Care to its employees. As well as support in medical and security emergencies, CNPC will also work with International SOS to provide preventative medical support, as well as pre-travel medical and security awareness training to its employees.

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