The current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a situation we’re monitoring very carefully.
Aside from the measures we’re taking to look after our people and customers, these are some of the common questions we’re being asked in relation to our business operations and policies.
How are Unum's operations and services being affected?
We have very detailed business continuity plans which we review continuously in light of the developing situation.
Our top priority is to continue serving our customers while caring for our people and we’re confident in our ability to do this.
We’ve identified critical system needs for our business and have plans in place to ensure they will remain operational during this pandemic. We also have enhanced technology infrastructure and well-established business continuity plans for home working.
We’ll continue supporting the individual and family responsibilities our employees are likely to have during this pandemic while still meeting the needs of our customers.
What's the best way to use Unum's Help@hand virtual GP and support services (available to GIP policyholders)?
While users of the Help@hand remote GP service shouldn’t use this service if their primary concern is coronavirus infection, the remote GP is a very valuable service for non-coronavirus related medical issues. This may become an even more important resource as access to the NHS GP service is increasingly impacted by coronavirus cases.
Anyone concerned over coronavirus infection should follow advice from the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.
Group Life policies
There are no general exclusions under our Group Life policies - all causes of death are covered for eligible members. However, there is a restriction on travelling on business against Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice (please see below).
The catastrophe clause could be invoked if the catastrophe provisions under the policy are met. The coronavirus pandemic would be considered as one originating cause.
However, as the catastrophe limit is usually at least £100 million per policy, it is very unlikely that the limit would be reached. Please check policy documents for the catastrophe limit applying to a particular policy.
A catastrophe means one or a series of originating causes or events which results in more than one death, irrespective of the period of time or area over which they take place.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Travel Advice service uses a traffic light system of:
- Red - advise against all travel
- Amber - advise against all but essential travel
- Green - normal safety precautions
Under the terms of our current standard policy, there is a restriction on travelling on business where the FCO advises against all travel (red zone). Where the FCO has advised against all travel to an area, our Group Life policies will not cover individuals subsequently travelling to that area on business. We will, however, cover any individuals who travelled on business to an area which was not a red zone when they travelled, but has since become a red zone.
Group Income Protection policies (GIP)
There is no catastrophe limit under our GIP policies. Our current standard GIP terms do not include a requirement to follow FCO guidance for business travel.
For a GIP claim to be valid, it must meet the terms of the policy which includes the member meeting the definition of incapacity and having been unable to work due to illness or injury for the whole of the deferred period.
The deferred period would start from the date the member first became unable to work due to illness. We will link periods of absence during the deferred period if they are due to the same or related cause.
For people who have been identified by the Government as belonging to one of the following groups:
- Extremely vulnerable from COVID-19 (advised to shield).
- At increased risk from COVID-19.
We can link:
- Periods of absence due to COVID-19 symptoms.
- Periods of absence due to the underlying condition which has led to them being placed in one of the above groups.
For a claim to be paid the definition of incapacity under the policy must be met.
For clarity receipt of a letter from the NHS informing an individual to self-isolate or shield is not in itself supportive of a claim meeting the terms and conditions of the policy.
Group Critical Illness policies (GCI)
There is no catastrophe limit under our GCI policies. Our current standard GCI terms do not include a requirement to follow FCO guidance for business travel.
Coronavirus is not specifically covered under our GCI policy, but claims may be considered under other conditions. For a GCI claim to be valid, it must meet the terms of the policy, including:
- The definition for the condition outlined in the policy being satisfied; and
- The pre-existing conditions exclusion not applying to the member
Group Income Protection, Group Life and Group Critical Illness
An employee who is self-isolating or sheilding, but otherwise fit to work would be regarded as meeting the actively at work requirement.
For clarity, an employee who is self-isolating or sheilding would not be considered actively at work if they have symptoms and have received medical advice to refrain from work.
In these circumstances, the employee would be regarded as being actively at work as long as they have not received medical advice to refrain from work.
Cover would remain in place in respect of eligible members as long as premiums continue to be paid by the policyholder.
- Reduced hours - we are able to provide cover on the basis of the normal contractual hours rather than the reduced hours. This also applies if hours are reduced to zero at this time.
- Reduced salaries - for employees requested to take a temporary pay cut, we can continue to insure benefits based on their salary immediately prior to such a reduction. This also applies if salary was reduced to zero.
- Furloughed employees - for employees who are furloughed we can continue to insure benefits based on their salary immediately prior to being placed on furlough salary.
- Job Support Scheme - for employees under the Job Support Scheme we can continue to insure benefit based on their salary immediately prior to being placed on the scheme.
This is subject to:
- Premiums continuing to be paid for the full benefit.
- The employee remaining employed.
- Our normal terms and conditions.
- We must continue to receive member data stating employees' full salaries and not their reduced levels.
- Benefits cannot be increased during this period.
The above is:
- Our default position.
- Only applies in response to the coronavirus.
- Can apply for a maximum of 12 months.
We must be notified if the employer wishes to take a different approach.
No, there would be no impact on cover as along as the employer continued to pay premiums. The policy terms and conditions would apply.
Under the terms of our current standard policy UK employees (members under a policy) can be based outside of the UK. This is subject to:
- The member must have a contract of employment with a UK resident employer and remain on the UK payroll.
- Premiums continuing to be paid.
- The terms and conditions of the policy being met for these members.
- In normal circumstances these members cannot be based in one of the following countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Uganda, Vanuatu, Yemen. This list may change from time to time.
- If a member is based in one of the above countries on a temporary basis during the coronavirus pandemic they must return to the normal working arrangements (as per the risk accepted by us) as soon as reasonably practicable when restrictions are lifted.
Premium and claim benefit must continue to be paid from and to a UK bank account.
We would consider claims in the normal way and subject to us being able to obtain satisfactory medical evidence.
Details of employees working overseas must be provided at the quote stage and at each rate review.
Subject to us having the appropriate email address, correspondence to brokers and customers will usually be electronic for the following:
- Policy set up and administration
- Medical underwriting
There are some situations where electronic correspondence is not always possible – eg. requesting medical evidence from doctors for medical underwriting and claims purposes. Please let us know if you currently receive monthly payment and escalation letters by post,and would now like these to be sent electronically.
Flex and Voluntary Benefits
Can an employee who has been placed on furlough under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) continue to be covered under a flex or voluntary arrangement?
Yes, as long as premiums continue to be paid.
- How much can an employer claim under the CJRS?
It is our understanding that an employer can claim a grant to cover:
- 80% of employees’ wages up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.
- Employer National Insurance contributions that are paid on the furlough pay.
- Employer pension contributions of up to 3% of the furlough pay, as long as the whole amount is paid to a pension scheme for the employee as an employer contribution.
The reference salary for making a claim under the CJRS should not include:
- The cost of non-monetary benefits provided to employees (e.g. benefits in kind).
- Benefits provided through salary sacrifice schemes (including pension contributions).
Employers can choose to top up an employee’s salary.
- What are employers’ obligations to pass on the grant under furlough rules?
All the grant received to cover an employee’s furlough pay must be paid to the employee (after the deduction of tax and NI) in the form of money.
- How does that impact Unum flex and voluntary policies?
If the employer topped up the salary e.g. from 80% to 100%, deductions to cover flex contributions could be made from the top up amount as long as the full 80% CJRS grant is passed on to the employee as salary.
Employers who do not top up salaries could fund the flex benefits.
Where flex benefits are funded through a ‘flex pot’, employers can continue to provide ‘flex pots’ in addition to the furlough salaries, to fund flex benefits.
- How are employers responding?
We have taken professional advice from a leading accountancy firm and their experience is that employers are continuing to fund flex benefits in the ways highlighted above for the following reasons:
- They have taken the view that having adequate protection cover in place is even more important for employees at this time.
- Ease of administration in continuing benefits.
- Making changes to flex platforms can be time consuming and are likely to involve additional costs for the employer.
The above is based on our understanding of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and does not provide definitive legal or tax advice. Policyholders and individuals should seek independent tax and legal advice to ensure they understand the impact of the legislation.
Executive Income Protection
There are no general exclusions under our current Executive Income Protection policy.
However, as part of the medical underwriting process, we may have identified that we cannot provide cover for certain medical conditions or certain circumstances. Please check policy documents to see if any such exclusions apply to a particular policy.
Our current standard Executive Income Protection policy terms do not include a requirement to follow FCO guidance for business travel.
For an Executive Income Protection claim to be valid, it must meet the terms of the policy which includes the insured life meeting the definition of incapacity and having been unable to work due to illness or injury for the whole of the deferred period.
Sick Pay Insurance (SPI)
To ensure we can continue to best serve our existing customers during the coronavirus pandemic, we have taken the decision to stop offering deferred period options of 1 to 3 weeks for all new SPI policies with immediate effect. This means that we will currently only offer SPI with a 4-week deferred period.
This decision does not impact new business quotes which are within the quote guarantee period, existing SPI policies or our other products, including Group Income Protection.
We will continue to monitor the situation and review our business plans on an ongoing basis.
For existing SPI policies, we will pay claims where a person has received medical advice to self-isolate due to the coronavirus and cannot work from home.
Claims will be paid for a maximum of 14 days following satisfactory completion of the deferred period according to our policy terms and conditions. This only applies in relation to the coronavirus.
Medical evidence to support the claim will be required if self-isolation goes beyond 14 days.
Our Dental team is still available for any queries you may have. Please call us on 020 7265 7111 and we will be happy to help.
Unum Dental are here to help process your claims and or answer questions. Your cover is unaffected during this time. Should you need emergency dental treatment your benefit schedule explains your cover limits, please contact your dental practice to understand their own dental emergency service.
You will still be eligible to claim for the treatment and we will reimburse you for the treatment in-line with your policy terms and conditions.
You can access information about your recent claims, policy information and see your live benefits schedule by logging into your portal. To do this:
- Click here and login using Unum Dental username and password (registration is required).
- During this time, if you need to claim we encourage all reimbursement methods to be via bank transfer. Please enter the bank details you would like your reimbursement to be made into and hit submit. (Incorrect bank details can slow down your reimbursement so please make sure these are correct).
All Unum products
We are committed to helping customers as much as we can. If you are experiencing difficulties paying your premiums as a result of COVID-19 then please email us at COVID19queries@unum.co.uk and we will be in touch to discuss the options available.