Healthcare division will hold rates for group PMI business until February 2002
Three initiatives, including a rate freeze, extended excess option and wider eligibility, have been introduced by Standard Life Healthcare (SLH) in a bid to make group PMI more attractive to corporate clients.
The move follows results of a survey of employee attitudes towards PMI, sponsored by recruitment and training firm Eden Brown. The study revealed that PMI is the UK's second favourite employee benefit behind pensions.
SLH will be holding its rates for group business until February 2002, meaning that they will have remained unchanged for one year. The insurer is also extending the excess available on its corporate schemes to include a £250 excess, in addition to the current level of £100. The types of occupation it will quote for group PMI has also been widened to include entertainment, media, landlords, ship crews, emergency services and medical staff.
Iain McMillan, intermediary sales manager at SLH, said: 'It is good news all round for the corporate sector. I am pleased that consumer research confirms how highly people value PMI as a staff benefit and that we are further extending the choice to consumers and businesses alike.'
More than half of all UK corporate PMI plans discriminate against unmarried couples, according to research carried out by employee benefits consultant William M Mercer.
The survey examined 527 company schemes and found that only 48% of plans allow membership to include common law spouses and only 44% offer cover for same sex partners.
Steve Clements, European partner at William M Mercer, said: 'Surprisingly, a significant number of plans appear to be out of tune with current social trends. Many employers could be accused of acting unjustly, as a large proportion of partners are not allowed membership. However, with the increasing emphasis on equal treatment and inclusiveness, there are signs that more companies are looking to address this issue.'
SLH is one insurer that does recognise these couples. Claire Ginnelly, national account manager at SLH, said: 'When we quote for any type of scheme we allow common law spouses and same sex partners, as well as married partners, on schemes. We changed our rates from a 'married' to 'couple' rate a few years ago, purely because we felt it was wrong to discriminate. From a risk point of view, we cannot see any difference and we expect more firms to see this.'
The study also revealed that a growing number of firms are offering cover to a greater proportion of their employees and 40% of employers now extend full cover to all employees, not just senior management. But, despite this, only 75% of full-time and 57% of part-time workers accept membership.
Clements said this was not surprising because of the cost factors involved. He added: 'The low take-up rate, even for full-timers, could be down to the benefit-in-kind tax charge and, in some cases, duplication of healthcare benefits between spouses. Part-time staff face extra costs since employers' contributions are often made pro rata according to the number of hours worked. This means they must make up the balance typically from an already below average salary.'
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