More employers need to ask employee benefit providers about how they deal with ‘vulnerable customers’, according to RedArc Nurses, following an occasional paper from the FCA two years ago calling for financial institutions to put a strategy in place.
The company believes this is particularly important for employers offering insurance-related benefits because insurance providers are much more likely to encounter vulnerable people on a day-today basis due to the nature of their product.
Anyone can become vulnerable due to the difficult circumstances in which they find themselves – such as being a carer, bereaved, seriously physically or mentally ill, having a disability, poor literacy or numeracy and through old age – some people will find themselves vulnerable temporarily, some sporadically and some permanently.
Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc says:
“A vulnerable customer is also a vulnerable employee – particularly if the individual is relying upon their employer to provide financial and emotional support during a crisis or difficult time. It helps employers fulfil their duty of care when they ensure that the employee benefit organisations or insurers that they choose, have a bona fide strategy in place for dealing with vulnerable customers.”
Cognitive abilities at times of or illness, disability, trauma or bereavement are significantly impaired, and even the most capable and confident of staff can be in disarray after an illness has been diagnosed, or after a bereavement.
Five steps to build in to an employer’s employee benefit selection process:
- Ask directly to see a vulnerable customer strategy statement
- Ask about what training is given to staff at the benefit provider to deal with vulnerable customers
- Ask whether there is additional emotional and/or medical support provided for employees during difficult times in addition to financial support
- Ask whether emotional and or medical support is available, even if a claim is not made
- Ask if the emotional and medical support is provided to all staff – or just those with a policy
“It can sometimes be difficult for an employer to identify vulnerable employees as staff don’t necessarily want to highlight the fact that they might be struggling in any way. However, if an employer selects a provider with a proven track record in this area, the provider may even identify vulnerable people either through the claims process or by other contact points, and after gaining consent, make a proactive referral. Checking that providers have a robust policy for looking after vulnerable customers is an important element in the selection process.”