COVID-19 has seen remote working become the new normal for many employees as businesses look to continue operating during the global pandemic.

Findings from a poll run across the Verdict network indicate that 46% of respondents would look for a mix of remote and office-based working once lockdown measures are eased, while 27% would work remotely full-time if they are given the choice. There is clearly considerable demand for a change to working practices that, should it occur, would shift the focus of the employee benefit market.

Further data from GlobalData’s 2019 UK SME Insurance Survey indicates that flexible working was offered as a benefit by 47% of SMEs. This should increase considerably following the easing of social distancing measures. Other benefits such as train ticket loans, offered by 30% of SMEs, are expected to fall in popularity as the large costs typically associated with commuting daily are cut considerably.

The spread of COVID-19 is expected to raise awareness of life insurance products such as group term assurance and income protection and how they could be used to help protect against unforeseen financial difficulties. The heightened interest in such products among the population, combined with a shift towards remote working, will place greater focus on employee benefits that offer financial protection.

The employee benefit market should look to capitalise on this trend and grow the uptake of financial protection products such as group life insurance, critical illness, and income protection, which currently are offered by only 46%, 47%, and 44% of SMEs respectively. Growth in the uptake of such policies may not come entirely from new policyholders but also from those that currently only offer certain benefits to management, expanding coverage to the wider workforce.

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By GlobalData