Cautious broker welcome for blockbuster Unum EAP deal

In what has been labelled Britain’s biggest ever employee assistance programme (EAP) deal, the country’s largest disability insurer, Unum, has revealed plans to roll out a free EAP service to all of its group income protection (GIP) clients.

The monster deal, signed with multinational business services giant Ceridian, means that 900,000 people across the UK will be given access to an EAP service provided by Ceridian. Neither employees nor their employer will incur any charge for using the basic form of the service, with Unum picking up the bill.

However, concerns have been raised that the arrangement will leave brokers and employee benefit consultants with an administrative headache, while some have questioned just how generous the free service actually is.

The new service will provide access for employers to online and telephone legal and employment helplines for mangers and supervisors. It also means that Unum clients will be able to create tailored legal documents to help them stay compliant and save legal costs.

Unum, which has been working in the US with Ceridian for the past seven years, said that employees covered by its GIP will now have access to telephone and face-to-face counselling, matched referalls for child and elder care and tips and advice on a wide range of other subjects. Printed material, CDs and online documents will also be provided free of charge as an additional resource for employees and employers.

All Unum customers will be provided with these services free as part of a so-called “embedded” option, with the ability to upgrade to a paid for “enhanced” one. With the enhanced option, the cost of which will vary from employer to employer, clients receive annual management reports from Unum which give anonymous details of the types of concerns being raised by employees. Other additional benefits are also provided.

Paul Roberts of London-based employee benefits consultancy IHC said he was pleased that Unum, which is by far the UK’s largest disability insurer with an estimated 60% market share, was “finally” offering an EAP service.

“The launch of the embedded EAP looks like a good thing to finally link the needs of people stressed in need of extra support and assistance but this follows Legal & General and Canada Life which already have similar offerings established in this market” Roberts said. “We hope that cases who are identified in the GIP claiming process are proactively helped to make the first call for therapy using the EAP.”

However, Roberts expressed concerned that the free service might fall short in places. While the “embedded” service provides access to just three sessions of telephone and face-to-face counselling, employers need to pay extra for the “enhanced” option, which provides six sessions of each.

“It’s a good start but I understand the clinical model to be six sessions so it begs the question ‘What happens after three sessions and who, how and when will it be billed back to the employer?’” Roberts asked.

However, Wojciech Dochan, head of commercial marketing at Unum, said that the number of telephone and face-to-face counselling sessions included as part of an EAP “varies” across the industry. He was also quick to allay some brokers’ initial concerns that they would have to administrate and pay for the communication of the new benefit to thousands of employees.

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