Inspire Winter 2020

The latest health and wellbeing news from Towergate Health & Protection

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

In this edition we try to shed light on under-the-radar issues that are likely to be affecting your workforce before discussing practical solutions.

This includes how to address the medically urgent problems on the rise in remote workers, tips on managing financial hardship over the holidays, and how to help employees struggling with loneliness this season. You’ll also find the latest updates from the insurers inside.

The remote work issues on the rise

For some businesses, the post-Covid-19 dust has settled as they’ve adapted to new working conditions, while others are still working to stay afloat.

But there are a new set of issues on the rise, and they require business owners’ attention now if they’re to be stopped from morphing into larger, costlier issues down the line.


Musculoskeletal issues have soared in 2020

Four in five people who began working remotely in lockdown developed some form of musculoskeletal (MSK) pain.1 This is attributed to the fact that many newly remote workers do not have the right equipment to be able to safely work from home; without essential work equipment like desks and chairs, a large portion of remotely working employees are working from their sofa, kitchen chair and even the floor.2

Pain is a signal that something isn’t right in the body, and while in the early stages of MSK issues the pain is ignorable (and is, indeed, often ignored), if left untreated they can morph into painful and expensive problems that are more difficult and time-consuming to treat.

For the employee, the chronic pain presented by MSK issues can lead to disability, fatigue, anxiety, depression and social isolation, all of which impede work productivity.3 MSK conditions constituted one in six fit notes issues by GPs from 2017 – 18 while nearly 44% of fit notes given for MSK conditions lasted five weeks or more.4

MSK problems are the leading cause of working days lost in the UK5, and when considering that the cost of sickness absence to the employer was on average £544 per employee in 2019,6 this figure is likely to steeply increase when considering the hike in MSK conditions just this year.

Skyrocketing mental health issues: the silent pandemic within a pandemic

Restricted movement, social distancing and the closure of non-essential businesses were put in place by the UK government with the aim of protecting UK residents from the spread of Covid-19, but a new set of issues have emerged as a result.

The number of adults experiencing depression has doubled compared to last yearwhile the vast majority of workers have said they’ve found the pandemic to be the most stressful time of their career. Additionally, private medical insurance claims related to mental health now exceed pre-pandemic levels, particularly worrying when considering that the estimated cost of mental health issues to the employer was £1,035 before Covid-19.8

Many people are typically unwilling to be transparent about their struggles, a fact noted even before the onset of the coronavirus:

  • 36% of people struggling with mental health problems believed confiding in their boss would hamper their career9
  • Two-fifths think they are better off suffering in silence9
  • 95% of employees who call in sick with stress give a different reason for needing time off10

The unwillingness of struggling employees to be transparent may result in employers being unaware of the true impact of mental health issues on their workforce.

How to help your employees and your business as these issues soar

The solution to the rise in mental health issues and MSK conditions is straightforward; at a time when NHS waiting lists for the treatment of such conditions are rising inexorably, employees need to be covered under a policy which gives them access to treatment.

Due to the stigma surrounding mental health issues, it’s particularly critical that struggling employees have access to an employee assistance programme (EAP) where they can receive confidential, judgment-free counselling. EAPs frequently offer face-to-face and remote appointments, telephone helplines, free online resources, and sometimes even mental wellness apps.

Policies that include EAPs are considered cost-effective because employers without this provision often end up paying far more for mental health-related costs in the long term.11 The increased demand for EAP-inclusive policies post Covid-1912 demonstrates how useful these policies have become as society’s medical needs have gotten clearer.

Some policies extend EAP access to include those employees not insured on the main policy. Where this isn’t the case, a stand-alone EAP can be arranged which ensures access to help and support for the entire workforce.

Similarly, staying on top of rising MSK issues requires that your employees experiencing early-onset pain are able to receive prompt physiotherapy (usually the treatment of choice). However, with long NHS wait times plus patient concerns about health and safety, many people aren’t receiving treatment for MSK pain while it’s still a relatively easy-to-manage issue.

Cash plans or private medical insurance policies can be an effective way for struggling employees to avoid long treatment wait times while keeping the cost to the employer in the long term minimised, and some physiotherapy providers can provide remote, video based physiotherapy sessions for those who may be uncomfortable attending sessions in person at this time.



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Financial wellbeing tips for the holidays

Financial wellbeing is profoundly linked to mental health;1 individuals facing financial hardship experience higher rates of depression and mental distress, and struggle with suicidal thoughts at double the rate reported by financially sound people.

Mental illness takes a significant toll on an individual’s ability to operate effectively at work or to their usual standards, with one in four workers reporting that money worries have affected their ability to do their job.2


From a business perspective, it’s estimated that mental health issues cost each employer £1,035 per employee per year due to factors including absenteeism and difficulty concentrating.3

A challenging time of year

Christmas is an expensive time of the year for many when factoring in high heating bills, festive-related costs like gifts, decorations and food shopping, and often excessive alcohol consumption.

It is a time when people particularly struggle financially,4 and unfortunately there are many issues that may be putting extra strain on your employees’ finances, and therefore their mental health, at the present time.

If your workforce has been affected by furlough, reduced working hours, pay cuts or a spouse losing their job, their finances have likely taken a hit. Fortunately, as an employer, there are a few things you can do to help.

You may already have tools to help your employees

The most straightforward method of helping your employees out right now could lie within benefits they already own but aren’t aware of. Did you know that only 57% of employers believe their workforce is aware of all their benefits and understands them?5

If you have a group risk policy covering your employees, it most likely includes an employee benefits programme (EAP). Additionally, many private medical insurance (PMI) policies include mental health support services. Struggling employees may be able to access a range of helpful services, like stress counselling (by phone, video or face to face), debt counselling, legal advice services, online resources and even mental wellness apps.

If your employees do have access to any of the above, it’s worth letting them know just in case they aren’t aware so that they can ask for help at their own discretion.

Free online resources

There is a wealth of free online resources available to help people with money worries. Nearly three quarters of people who sought debt advice felt less stressed about dealing with their finances after receiving help6, while seven in ten people reported that they were performing better at work. Employers are well placed to signpost employees to freely available services that employees may not be aware of.

The following are free tools that have been proven to help people with money worries, which might be just what certain employees need right now.

  • The Money Advice Service offers free and impartial advice to people who need a hand in managing their finances
  • Through the Citizens Advice Web Chat anyone can receive confidential, impartial advice about debt or money worries
  • For employees who might prefer to speak to someone directly, StepChange Debt Charity offers expert debt advice and fee-free debt management help over the phone. They can be reached by calling 0800 138 1111

As the pandemic continues to impact large parts of the economy, many firms will not be in a position to help employees directly with financial concerns, but they can raise awareness about the help and support their employees can freely access.


5. Research undertaken by Opinium on behalf of GRiD amongst 500 HR Decision makers between 27-31 January 2020. 

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Supporting your employees through the holiday season

Government-mandated safety measures against Covid-19 mean that many UK residents will be celebrating the holiday season in restricted numbers, with vulnerable loved ones absent, or alone.

As a result, it’s likely that more people will experience feelings of loneliness than usual this festive season. That said, many people are uncomfortable sharing their emotions and may opt to keep their feelings to themselves. That’s why spreading awareness that it’s normal to struggle, particularly in the current climate, can help your employees.


1. Let them know they’re not alone

Here are some eye-opening facts to share with your employees.

  • 69% of workers say that Covid-19 is the most stressful time of their career1
  • The number of adults experiencing depression has doubled compared to last year2
  • 59% of adults fear they won’t be able to see family or friends at Christmas or other religious festivals3
  • Over a quarter of the above respondents report being worried about celebrating the season alone

It’s clear to see that people in the UK are facing mental struggles at unprecedented rates; that’s why it’s imperative now more than ever to spread the words ‘you’re not alone’.

2. Foster a virtual open-door policy

The transition to remote working for many has leaned heavily on technology to substitute the pillars of the working day; meetings and conferences now largely take place online while email and phone calls are the standard mode of communication.

You might not instinctively think so, but employers are strategically placed to give employees support they may be unable to receive from friends or family. While the tech tools may give employers the impression that they are always available to their workforce, struggling employees may feel that there is an invisible line between them and their supervisors unless clearly stated.

Once agreed upon with line managers, make it explicit to your workforce that there’s a virtual door that’s open to them should they need it. Some employees may find it too difficult to verbally open up while others would prefer a video or telephone call over an email. Let your employees know that the choice is theirs.

3. Employee benefits

Your employees may be eligible for mental health support through their existing employee benefits.

Here are some of the mental health support services that can be included as part of PMI policies:

  • Bupa provides access to a range of confidential support, including CBT, online resources, counselling, and helplines
  • AXA Health provides many services including Stronger Minds, a mental health package that includes counselling, psychological and psychiatric treatment, and free access to the Thrive mental health app
  • Aviva provides access to a stress counselling helpline and Aviva Digital GP for remote consultations
  • Vitality offers a Talking Therapies service offering telephone, video and face-to-face therapy on top of other services

Most group risk policies offer some form of mental health support as well. Here is an example of some of the services that can be provided:

  • AIG Life's Smart Health provides unlimited access to a suite of six services including mental health support, online fitness programmes and a 24/7 UK-based GP
  • Aviva’s DigiCare+ is a staple on their group income protection and group critical illness policies and gives employees access to many medical services which includes treatment for mental health problems
  • Canada Life policyholders have access to WeCare, which amongst other health services offers up to ten counselling sessions with a psychologist and access to a tailored fitness programme
  • Unum’s Help@hand contains five health and wellbeing services, including direct access to mental health support

Most group income protection policies include employee assistance programmes (EAPs) that can be rolled out to all employees, not just those insured on the policy. If this is something your employees have access to, make sure they are aware.

4. Free resources

The coronavirus pandemic has increased the demand for free mental health tools. Fortunately, this means that there are a range of free online resources available for anyone who might need them.

  • Mind’s online community: a virtual meeting space open 24/7 for anyone who wants or needs a chat
  • Virtual book clubs: online book clubs could be a real benefit to lonely employees. A book is a great way to take your mind off of day-to-day life, and having the opportunity to virtually talk to others is a great, safe way to be social
  • Hobby forums: there are forums dedicated to a vast range of hobbies, whether popular or obscure, from musical instrument forums to films, cooking, marine life and everything in between. Importantly, you can meet new people and get talking to them about shared interests
  • Exercise online: exercise is a well-known serotonin-booster. Many exercise meetups have moved online post-pandemic, so now people can enjoy many forms of exercise virtually while still in the company of others

5. Virtual volunteering

Many studies show that helping others boosts our own mood.4 The restricted movement measures in place currently means that volunteering is now easier to participate in than it was before Covid-19, as no commute is required.

  • Some of the loneliest people in the UK are elderly people. This holiday season, AGE UK volunteers call their chosen elderly person for half an hour a week for a chat, a very doable commitment even for those with busy schedules.
  • Lend your ear to the Samaritans and answer calls and messages from people who desperately need someone to talk to.

As the festive season draws closer, we should advocate for facing feelings of loneliness head on so they can be addressed. Employees may feel a lack of hope about improving their situation, but by sharing these practical measures that are proven to work, employees can begin to take steps back to emotional wellness.


4. ; 

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Avoid 'double disaster'

It may seem long ago, but on 16 February 2020 The Environment Agency issued 347 flood alerts followed by seven severe flood warnings presenting a danger to life. Many parts of the UK experienced disastrous flooding as a result of record-breaking rainfall following storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge leading to extensive river flooding.

Zurich Insurance has called for urgent action to help communities and businesses prepare for the worst, suggesting that the UK is at risk of a ‘double disaster’ in the latter part of the year, faced with flooding and the recurrence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The UK had a mild winter followed by a very warm spring and our sea temperatures are also warmer than usual. Japan is encountering the same phenomena resulting in deadly flooding.

In the UK, there are few, if any, perils that cause the devastation that flooding can. It can destroy entire communities, and all the evidence suggests that future UK flooding is not only inevitable, but is likely to occur in the immediate future, causing widespread losses to businesses and households.

However, help is at hand and measures can be taken to protect your property.

BIBA approved commercial scheme

The scheme provides comprehensive cover at highly competitive terms from secure ‘A’-rated Lloyds’ underwriters.

The scheme caters for business and property owners who have difficulty purchasing cover for damage caused by flood. This could be those businesses who have either suffered previously from flood damage, are located in areas of high potential flood risk or who have had flood terms imposed.

The scheme has three specific contracts:

  • Commercial Combined for manufacturing and distribution trades
  • Package policies for retail, offices and surgery
  • Property owners cover for real estate investors

FloodFlash insurance

FloodFlash offers rapid pay-out flood cover through an alternative model known as parametric insurance.

You are able to select a trigger depth for flood and a pay-out value to get an instant quote. If agreeable, their engineers will visit the premises and install a mobile-connected sensor.

In the event of a loss, the sensor confirms the chosen trigger depth has been reached and the claim is automatically initiated. Upon approval, the payment is made, usually within seven days.

There are no restrictions on how you use the pay-out. You can repair damage, rent an alternative location, replace stock etc.

FlashFlood policies are for businesses, including businesses trading from home and landlords or property owners where the company is owned through a company. Excludes Northern Ireland.

Flood Excess insurance

Households and businesses in areas deemed to be at high risk often carry higher excesses. For some households this can be as high as £15,000. For businesses it can be a lot higher.

Flood Excess insurance is an insurance policy available to homeowners, landlords or businesses that offers them the ability to insure the excess.

You should be able to purchase Flood Excess insurance provided the property covered has not flooded more than once in the past five years. You can insure your excess up to a maximum of £100,000.

Post-loss recovery with Towergate Assist

If disaster strikes, a quick and effective response is vital. Large losses can be complex and need assistance from experts to help ensure that the entire process is handled quickly, fairly and without additional stress.

In the event of a loss, your insurers will instruct a loss adjuster, who will work on their behalf.

Towergate Assist, from our sister company Towergate Insurance Brokers, is an insurance policy that covers the costs of an independent loss adjuster to help with the preparation, negotiation and settlement of your material damage and business interruption claims (excluding subsidence and notifiable disease related claims).

Towergate Assist is available to homeowners, landlords or businesses and is accessible 24 hours, 365 days a year.           

If you would like to know more about your property insurance options, please contact your Towergate Health & Protection consultant.

Towergate Insurance Brokers has produced a publication titled Flood; The UK Landscape. It describes the measures being taken by government, including grants available, the BIBA approved commercial scheme and advice on pre-loss prevention and protection. Click here to get your copy.

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Latest news from the insurers

Have you seen the latest updates from the insurers?

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



8 October 2020 – Mental health in the workplace: we need to talk

Aviva found that while 92% of employees reported experiencing a mental health symptom, less than one in 10 confided in their line manager. For this to change, Aviva advocates a two-pronged approach: 1) engaging in activities that improve awareness of our own mental states and 2) a work environment comprised of trust and confidentiality that’s outlined in policy.

AXA Health*

3 November 2020 – Covid-19 testing workers mental health

A European-wide survey by AXA into people’s mental wellbeing during the coronavirus pandemic has found an increase in work-related stress across the continent, including the UK. To work towards remedying the issue, AXA Health recommends a holistic approach towards mental health.

*AXA Health is the new name for AXA PPP healthcare and Health-on-Line. You may continue to see the AXA PPP healthcare and Health-on-Line names on documentation, as AXA’s rebrand is being phased over 12 months.


10 November 2020 - Bupa introduces Covid-19 safety badge for hospitals and clinics

Bupa’s new Covid-19 safety badge shows which hospitals and clinics can confirm that they meet the UK’s Covid-19 patient safety standards. Anyone can use the Bupa Finder, a free online directory that can give patients reassurance about local services.

7 October 2020 - New Bupa Balance health insurance launches for businesses

The new Bupa Balance health insurance offers quick access to diagnosis and outpatient services. The cover includes support for long-term chronic conditions like diabetes and heart conditions, and a service called Bupa From Home which provides patients with remote access to specialists.


8 October 2020 - Covid-19 triggers interest in life insurance, Vitality finds

New research published by VitalityLife has found that the coronavirus pandemic has become a catalyst for people to consider taking out life insurance.

7 October 2020 - Men are less aware of mental wellbeing initiatives and participate less according to study

Vitality found that while 95% of organisations offered at least one type of mental wellbeing initiative, 25% of the men in the study were not aware these initiatives existed. A further 67% of male employees aged 18 – 15 were aware of the initiatives but didn’t participate.

Best of the rest


15 October 2020 - Medicash Breaks 300,000 policyholder milestone

After the outbreak of Covid-19, Medicash observed a 36% increase in EAP-inclusive policies taken out compared to the same time period last year. Medicash now celebrates providing cover to over 300,00 policyholders.


2 November 2020 - Denplan supports Mouth Cancer Action Month as cases reach record high

As new figures show that cases of mouth cancer have increased 58% compared to a decade ago, the Oral Health Foundation are pairing with Denplan, Simplyhealth’s corporate dental cover, to raise awareness of oral health in patients and communities.

13 October 2020 - Simplyhealth brings individuals and communities together to improve health of UK

Simplyhealth has developed a new, free app designed to support people’s mental health during the pandemic as well as in the long-term. The app is free to everyone, not just policyholders.

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