Inspire spring 2020

The latest news from Towergate Health & Protection

Welcome to the latest edition of Inspire, our quarterly newsletter, designed to keep you informed about the issues that could be relevant to your business.

In this edition we look at the latest on Coronavirus, as well as other health and wellbeing issues which could impact your business and employees in the next decade.

You can also read about the impact of the new hard insurance market, why employers should look after their staff’s health and the impact of financial stress in the workplace.  

Will this be the unhealthiest decade of all time?

Coronavirus hitting the headlines at the very start of this decade has brought global health issues to the forefront and with the World Health Organisation warning that cancer cases could rise by 60% in the next 20 years1, is this set to be the unhealthiest decade ever?

According to a report from the Department for Health, obesity is on the increase with only a third of adults now a healthy weight. Since 1993, rates of adult obesity have almost doubled (to 29%), and morbid obesity has quadrupled (to 4%).

The report says one in three children aged 10 to 11 are now overweight or obese, and obese children are five times more likely to become obese adults.2

The same report also shows our lifestyles are becoming increasingly inactive: a third of adults do not meet the guidelines of 150 plus minutes of aerobic activity a week and the UK is less active than France, the Netherlands and Australia, and has twice the level of inactivity seen in Finland.

Obesity is linked to many serious health conditions including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, and breathing problems, yet is it is on the rise in the UK and globally.

The impact of the changes in the environment, issues around antibiotics and medicines and infectious diseases are all threatening to turn into crisis health problems globally over the coming decade.

The World Health Organisation has listed what it says are the 13 “urgent global health challenges” which must be addressed during this decade, saying the 2020s need to be a decade of action on health around the globe3.

1. Health in relation to climate change

The report says the climate crisis bring health risks across the world with almost 7 million people dying from air pollution, and the same emissions which cause global warming, also cause a quarter of all deaths from heart attack, stroke, and lung conditions.

2. Providing water to healthcare facilities

Poor water systems are found in one in four healthcare facilities around the world leading to poor quality care and increased infection risks for patients and staff. This is in addition to billions of people around the world without access to safe water. Dirty water drives diseases.

3. Providing healthcare during conflicts

In 2019 the majority of the disease outbreaks requiring WHO intervention occurred in conflict countries alongside targeted attacks on health facilities in those regions. These conflicts force people to flee their homes leaving millions with no access to health care.

4. Creating fairer healthcare access

Access to health care, and therefore health expectations, vary from country to country depending on the poverty levels and even vary from city to city within different countries. The poorest, most deprived areas are often those with the most need for, yet with the least access to, quality healthcare.

5. Improving access to medicine

According to WHO a third of the world’s population have little or no access to medicine, vaccines and other essential health products. This threatens lives and has economic impact on the lower income countries.

6. Improving access to vaccines and preventing infectious diseases

Infectious diseases are expected to kill around four million people in this year alone, most of whom are poor. Diseases such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis could be prevented with the right advice and treatment. Deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases are also on the rise, with 140,000 patients, mainly children, killed by measles in 2019.

7. Dealing with epidemics

With Coronavirus as a prime example already this year, the world spends far more money responding to disease outbreaks than it does trying to prevent them and future pandemics are inevitable, threatening the health and prosperity of people around the globe.

8. Tackling unhealthy diets and food poverty

Lack of food, unhealthy diets and unsafe food are responsible for around a third of global diseases. Hunger and food shortages cause problems for millions, while diets rich in sugar, fats and salt cause obesity for millions as well.

9. A global shortage of health workers

We are all aware of the shortage of nurses and doctors in the UK, but globally WHO predicts the healthcare system will need an extra 18 million health workers by 2030, including 9 million nurses and midwives.

10. Protecting teenage health

More than a million young people aged 10 – 19 die per year from road accidents, suicide and violence. Other prevalent teenage health risks include the use of harmful substances and unprotected sex. This is a big issue for our future generations across the globe.

11. Earning back the public trust

Misinformation campaigns have led to the public mistrusting healthcare institutions leading to a lack of understanding of some areas and creating risky behaviour. WHO claims the anti-vaccination movement is a key factor in the rise of deaths from preventable diseases.

12. Better understanding of healthcare technology

New technologies such as genome editing and digital health can help solve many issues but WHO emphasises the importance of ensuring they are fully understood so they don’t cause more harm than good.

13. Beating anti-microbial resistance

The increasing resistance of organisms to antibiotics is a great threat to modern medicine and has grown from a wide range of factors including use of antibiotics and lack of access to quality healthcare, along with poor infection control.

With the rise in obesity-related diseases like diabetes and heart disease, alongside a predicted huge rise in the number of cancer cases alone, this decade looks set to be an incredibly challenging one for the health industry, putting even more strain on an already overburdened NHS in the UK and pressure on other healthcare systems across the world.


2.      HM Government report: Advancing our health: Prevention in the 2020s, published July 2019

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Advice for employers on Coronavirus

With Coronavirus officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, and the government’s emergency committee meeting again yesterday, it’s important that businesses have contingency plans in place to protect their staff and their company.

The country is now in phase two of a four-phase plan, which is to delay the disease spread. The second phase advises anyone with a "new, continuous" cough or high temperature to self-isolate for seven days, as the number of infections in the UK are expected to reach their peak very soon. The latest advice and information is available from the NHS.

This comes as the whole of Italy is on lockdown and the US has banned all travel into the country from anywhere in Europe, apart from the UK or Ireland.

The number of cases in the UK is currently 596 at the time of writing, although it is thought actual numbers could be between five and ten thousand. The risk level to individuals has been raised to high.

The government has declared that workers will receive statutory sick pay from the first day off work, not the fourth, to help contain the virus. The situation is changing daily however, so it is important to start planning and adopt preventative measures where possible, if you haven’t already done so.

The NHS has declared Coronavirus a notifiable disease. The Department for Health and Social Care said this will help to reduce the impact on businesses by helping companies claim through insurance policies which require this declaration.

Customers with a private health insurance plan should be aware that most private hospitals will lack the necessary isolation facilities to treat patients with Coronavirus, so it is unlikely that members would be able to receive treatment within a private hospital. However should they require treatment in an NHS hospital, they may be eligible to claim NHS cash benefit. They should contact us for details with regards to their specific policy.

Doctors are also being advised to use video-conferencing to assess patients, to help stop the spread and a new national health campaign has been launched to encourage everyone to wash their hands more, as the most important preventative measure.

So, as a UK-based employer, what do you need to be thinking about and what type of preparation should you be taking? We have prepared the following guidance for our clients:

What companies should be doing now

1) Assigning the job of monitoring the latest reports and advice from the Department of Health, the National Health Service and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to a specific member of the team, who can report back to management regularly as and when the advice is updated. This is important as any advice to close down schools, or have people working from home will potentially have a big impact

2) Considering changes to working practices and policies that might be required should the advice from the government change, such as:

  • Is the business able to support people working from home?
  • Is the business able to reduce the requirement for people to travel on public transport? (for example, making use of telephone or video-conferencing rather than face to face meetings)
  • Should the business consider amending its sickness absence policy for a limited time, to reinforce government advice that people showing symptoms should self-isolate at home if advised to do so by the NHS 111 service?

3) Creating a robust business continuity plan or reviewing your existing plans, with a focus on the impact of a reduced number of employees being able to work or attend their usual workplace

4) Providing effective communication to all employees about the virus including the latest current government advice, and what the businesses expects employees to do

5) Reviewing their employee benefit package to identify whether their benefits include access to online GP consultation services or GP telephone helplines; and where these are available, raising awareness of them among eligible employees in the event that the NHS 111 helpline become stretched. We are on hand to assist clients in reviewing their benefits to confirm whether such services are available and which employees are eligible to access them

How can employers protect their people?

All employers have a duty to ensure the health, welfare and safety of everyone in the workplace, which is likely to cover ensuring employees are not placed at risk of Coronavirus. Communicating all the latest government guidance to people can help, along with providing increased hygiene measures.

Providing anti-bacterial wipes and gels for everyone in the office, and ensuring cleaners are using anti-bacterial surface cleaners can go a long way to helping prevent infection from spreading.

Employers should carry out risk assessments on an ongoing basis for any employees which fall into the at-risk groups outlined by the government, including the over 60’s, pregnant employees, and those with weakened immune systems or pre-existing health conditions.

The risks are changing daily so it’s important for employers to monitor these and have plans in place for action, for example, asking pregnant employees to work from home, or suspending them on full pay on medical grounds.

What about people returning from trips abroad?

Businesses need to prepare for the possibility that team members who have travelled abroad, to places which are now high risk, might not be able to return due to travel restrictions, or quarantine issues.

Employers need to keep track of all employees travel plans, both personal and business-related, so that the appropriate advice can be given to them in terms of reducing the risk to their health from the virus.

For employers, it’s important to have a policy in place around pay for those who are trapped abroad, or cannot come to work due to self-quarantine, and to consider options for people to work from home to support business continuity.

All employees should be made aware of the government guidelines on what to do when returning from any of the at-risk countries in terms of self-monitoring and self-isolating. The guidelines can be found here and are constantly updated.

The main symptoms are a fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties and the advice is to call 111 and not go to the GP. Stay indoors and avoid contact with other people. It’s important to stay isolated for 14 days.

To reduce risk of infection, the advice is to always cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze, use tissues and wash your hands regularly.

What to do if someone in the team has Coronavirus

If a member of your team is confirmed as testing positive with the virus, an action plan will be needed to deal with the situation, for example, how to communicate that without breaching their confidentiality, and how to take the appropriate risk management steps without creating panic among colleagues.

You would need a way to identify anyone else who may be at risk, after having had contact with the infected patient, and what precautions would need to be taken, for example, isolating them from the workplace.

Clear sickness absence and pay procedures need to be in place for any employees affected by the virus, as well as infection control protocols for the areas where they worked.

A business continuity plan should be in place to support the company should large numbers of people have to self-isolate, such as enabling people to work from home if appropriate.

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Is it an employer’s job to look after the health of their staff?

When it comes to the impact of stress and mental ill health at work, the figures are staggering, with a sixth of workers experiencing a mental health problem at any one time, and stress, anxiety and depression the reasons for almost half the working days lost in Britain1.

But is it up to the employer to support wellbeing in the workplace, or should staff take responsibility for themselves? Towergate Health & Protection has developed a white paper exploring this subject in depth, which can be read in full here.

Employers have used benefits to attract and retain talent for a long time, but should they be doing more to support their team members? According to GRiD, around 32% of organisations with more than 250 employees use health and wellness programmes to control absence and improve attendance2.  

Modern life brings new health and wellbeing challenges - from living a more sedentary lifestyle, to being always connected, combined with financial stress and the difficulties of caring for relatives - meaning today’s workforce comes to work with a whole host of wellbeing issues every day.

Sickness absence has a huge impact on the workplace, with around 141.4 million working days per year lost due to sickness or injury3, and the annual cost to businesses estimated to be £554 per employee4. But there are other issues which employers need to think about, in addition to people taking time off work.

Presenteeism is also an issue - people who are coming into the office might not always be feeling their best, emotionally or physically, but will show up regardless rather than be off sick, perhaps trying to escape from a stressful situation at home.

However, the productivity level of people in this situation will be incredibly low. And it’s not just down to physical health issues. Stress over money worries is now a huge issue for many in the workplace.

Research shows that one in four employees has lost sleep over money worries in the last year, with one in ten unable to focus at work and 6% taking time off work to deal with monetary concerns5.  

Lower productivity rates and people showing up for work when they can’t concentrate properly has as big an impact on the workplace as sickness absence in many cases. In fact, lost productivity and absence due to financial stress costs UK businesses around £120 billion per year5.

So, supporting the mental and physical health and wellbeing of all staff can have a hugely positive impact not just on the people, but also from a business point of view, reducing costs and pressures.

Having the right healthcare package in place gives your team more treatment and support options and avoids delays in returning to work, while helping to reduce sickness absence at the same time. It is also an attractive benefit to improve recruitment and retention of the best talent.

Preventative health measures provided through a good wellbeing programme can help encourage employees to live healthier lives, boost staff morale, as well as reducing sickness absence levels.

Other types of employee benefits which could help to provide financial assistance to employees should they become too sick to work or need time off to recover from a long-term illness can also help.

For the full white paper, which includes a case study on how employee benefits can reduce absenteeism at work, click here.


1. Deloitte UK – Mental health and employers – Refreshing the case for investment January 2020

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Money worries – the real reason for time off?

While many people have money worries, what happens when people are so strapped for cash that they can’t even face going into work because of the stress they are under dealing with their debt issues?

Although many companies don’t offer any support directly for financial issues, some do offer employee assistance programmes which can provide online or telephone counselling and advice for debt issues and is a service which could be of great help.

The Money Advice Service is a free government-run helpline for those struggling with debt and they reported receiving calls about debts every four minutes during January. Last January the service received 3,500 debt calls and 26,000 people used an online debt advice tool.1

They said that January was often the busiest month as people struggled to pay debt built up over Christmas, but also this year, new regulations have come into play for people who are in persistent debt, meaning credit card companies might be seeking higher repayments.1

The Money and Pensions Service, which provides the helpline, estimates there are nine million adults in the UK who find meeting monthly payments a heavy burden or are regularly behind on their bills, but very few are seeing help with those debts.1

Employees worrying about money at work

That means nine million people are potentially going to work every day while pre-occupied with not being able to pay their bills that month, and suffering from stress, anxiety and unable to perform effectively as a result.

In fact, research from the Society for Human Resources Management showed that financial stress increases absenteeism and lateness at work by 34%, while another study revealed that financially stressed employees miss twice as many days of work as their colleagues.2

With financial worries having such a clear impact on the workplace, what can employers realistically do to help? Having an effective wellbeing strategy which offers mental health support, for example, with an employee assistance programme can help, but it won’t solve the issues.

Steps employers can take to reduce the burden

There are a number of different things an employer can do to try to help, the first one being provide a culture where there is no shame in talking about issues and problems, and provide a safe space for employers to turn to for help or for a shoulder to lean on. Often admitting a debt problem is a huge relief in itself.

Employers can signpost people to helpful services such as the Money Advice Service website where there is all sorts of advice for people struggling with debt. Pointing people towards the right help can make a huge difference.

If employees are struggling to afford a daily commute then offering a chance to work from home, or encouraging car sharing, could help reduce cost burdens. Travel subsidies as an employee benefit, or offering season ticket loans to spread the cost of travel could also help.

When the debt burden has become too much and professional help is needed, then services like an employee assistance programme often provide counselling and guidance for those in debt, but it may be that employees don’t realise they have that at their disposal, so promoting it’s existence could make a big difference.

Providing financial education to help people understand how to manage their money better can also help but these need to be tailored and not a one-size fits all approach, as all employees will have different needs and requirements.

For money advice and guidance: / 0800 138 7777



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Why it’s more important than ever to use a broker

When choosing your general insurance policies, it can be tempting to do it yourself and just opt for the cheapest. However, the general insurance market is changing, so it pays to use an expert broker to review the market for you and come up with the best solutions for your budget.

The general insurance market has been “soft” since 2002, meaning low premiums, wide coverage and a far more relaxed underwriting environment.


However, with the number of worldwide natural disasters, and resulting number of claims being made, that is all about to change. Other issues which have had an impact on the world of insurance include changes in the way some personal injury claims compensation awards are calculated, increasing claims costs, and an increase in employment tribunal claims which have led to higher insurance costs for employers.

All these factors have come together to make the market more challenging, which could have a big impact on anyone seeking new insurance for their business or renewing their current insurance.

So, what does that mean for insurance customers?

A “hard” insurance market results in higher premiums, stricter underwriting criteria, higher excess costs and more restrictions in cover and conditions for liability. It makes insurance for customers potentially more expensive, harder to get and less extensive.

So, it’s more important than ever not to make decisions on price alone, as you could end up finding out too late that your cover isn’t enough for your claim, which could spell disaster for your company at a time of crisis.

Using a broker provides you with an expert guiding hand through an increasingly difficult search.

If you have general insurance policies which are about to expire, or would like a review of your existing cover, this is the time to approach an insurance broker, like our sister company Towergate Insurance Brokers, for expert help and guidance to ensure you get the right policies.

Towergate Insurance Brokers’ teams of specialists have built a solid reputation for understanding many business sectors and industries, navigating the everyday and emerging risks faced in today’s increasingly complex world.

If you would like to know more about how our colleagues at Towergate Insurance Brokers could help with your business, please speak to your regular Health & Protection adviser and they will be happy to refer you on.

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Latest news from the insurers

Did you see the latest updates from the insurers?

Here's the latest from Aviva, AXA PPP, Bupa, Healix Health Services, Medicash, Simplyhealth and Vitality.



23 Jan 2020 – Business resilience: the 6 factors

We all know what resilience means, but what does it mean for business? Aviva surveyed 1,000 UK businesses to find out what it means to them. The success of a business often depends on its ability to prepare for and adapt to change. Doing this – while continuing to achieve your targets and goals – comes down to one word: resilience.

20 Jan 2020 - Are great workplace benefits within reach for small businesses?

With employees looking for more benefits than just a workplace pension, how can small businesses stand out from the crowd?


11 December 2019 – AXA PPP healthcare and Doctor Care Anywhere announce major enhancements to Doctor@Hand service

AXA PPP healthcare’s partnership with Doctor Care Anywhere announces significant additions to its private online GP service, Doctor@Hand, as part of an ongoing commitment to improving patient experience and outcomes.


27 February 2020 – Novel Coronavirus

On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organisation received reports of pneumonia of an unknown cause in Wuhan City in China. Authorities in China quickly identified the cause as a new (or novel) strain of Coronavirus in early January. Novel coronavirus has continued to spread since this time, with confirmed cases now in multiple countries worldwide.

24 January 2020 – Misuse of mental health terms in teen TV

Mental health terms are used twice an episode in teen TV, but nearly half of mentions are dismissive, mocking or humorous. Half (50%) of parents believe their children’s knowledge of mental health mostly comes from popular culture, influencing their perceptions of mental health conditions.

13 January 2020 – What’s normal? Brits unsure when to get support for mental health

People in the UK experience mental health symptoms most of the time but many aren’t sure where their ‘normal’ ends and poor mental health begins, potentially leading to delays in seeking help.


February 2020 – Adviser role is crucial to business protection clients

Regularly reviewing protection policies to meet the changing needs of businesses is crucial to retention, according to research from VitalityLife.

January 2020 - Demand for business protection on the rise - but half of advisers don't protect their own business 

Nearly a quarter (24%) of advisers with corporate clients have seen the demand for business protection rise in the last five years, according to new research carried out by insurer VitalityLife. 

Best of the rest:


28 January 2020 – Key advice for female travellers

Despite the fact that the rights and liberties afforded to women across the world are gradually increasing, female (particularly solo) travellers face a unique set of risks that employers and travellers should be aware of prior to deployment abroad.

17 January 2020 – Special risks to consider in 2020

In our increasingly globalised world, new avenues of risks are becoming apparent. New technology, information sharing and the proliferation of new threat actors have increased the risks facing both travellers and organisations. These ‘special risks’ require specific management, mitigation and prevention methods.


24 February 2020  – Medicash supports next generation of budding local artists

The Medicash Foundation, the charitable arm of local health insurer Medicash, is delighted to become an official partner of the dot-art schools competition.


30 December 2019 – Tips for keeping New Year resolutions on track

Whatever your resolution, whether you're trying to lose those excess pounds, learn to play a new instrument, quit smoking, or simply make that commitment you keep letting slip, Simplyhealth has put together a list of tips they hope will help you on your journey.

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