Coronavirus – The impact on group insurance


As the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to dominate headlines the question many advisers and clients are asking is whether their group health and risk policies are affected and whether they still provide adequate protection.

Canada Life, one of the UK’s leading group risk insurers, has looked at the questions raised and outlined how this effects their policies and policyholders and have prepared an FAQs. Although they are looking at how COVID effects their policies only we believe this gives a good overview of how risk policies are working during the pandemic and allows clients with polices other than Canada Life to raise similar questions with their insurer. This is an edited version of the generic questions asked. For the full Canada Life FAQs follow the link here.

Canada Life’s FAQs

Outlined below are Canada Life’s answers to questions put to them from their policy holders. If you have a risk policy with another insurer the answers may differ. We have included these Q&As as a guide only.

Are eligible employees covered if they die from coronavirus?

Yes, our Group Life policies cover death by any cause.

What support for employees is available if it’s needed?

The NHS advice on what to do if an employee suspects they have coronavirus can be found here. Canada Life also provides a range of employee and employer Support Services that provide guidance and advice on different issues. Click here to find out more about Canada Life’s support services to their policyholders.

Do your policy terms require customers to follow Foreign Office travel guidance for short term business travel?

We’ll continue to cover members outside the UK when they’re on holiday or travelling for business. We don’t exclude holiday or short-term business travel to other countries, including where the Foreign Office advises against travel.

Do you cover members on secondment outside the UK?

Yes, we can cover members who’ve been seconded to a country that’s included in our list of scheduled territories. [the full list is shown on the Canada Life website] Cover for any member working outside the UK permanently, or in a country outside of our scheduled territories should have previously been agreed or will be reviewed individually.

We’ll only pay a Group Income Protection claim to members outside a scheduled territory for a maximum of six months, unless it’s not medically advisable for the member to return to a scheduled territory, or a specific agreement is in place.

Will you request any additional travel information at rate review or renewal?

We won’t ask for any extra information beyond what we normally ask for. We still expect to be informed of any travel outside our scheduled territories.

Could coronavirus be considered a catastrophic event?

We define a catastrophic event as:

“One originating cause, event or occurrence or a series of related originating causes, events or occurrences, resulting in the deaths of four or more members, irrespective of when or where the members die”.

Coronavirus can be considered one originating cause. Our catastrophic event limits only apply to our Group Life Insurance policies. They don’t apply to our Group Income Protection and Group Critical Illness policies.

Are members absent from work due to quarantine, following individual medical advice specific to the member, classed as ‘Actively at Work’?

These members would not meet our Actively at Work conditions.

(You can read Canada Life’s full Actively at Work definition here.)

Please note, generic government advice or that from the Chief Medical Officer to the whole UK population is not considered individual medical advice.

Employees who are not at work as they are ‘shielding’ or classed as ‘vulnerable’ (including those who have received a letter asking them to stay at home), but who are otherwise capable of fully performing their normal role, will be classed as actively at work.

Are members absent from work due to being furloughed or working reduced hours under the Job Support Scheme (JSS) classed as ‘Actively at Work’?

Members who are absent from work due to being furloughed or working reduced hours under the Job Support Scheme (JSS), but who otherwise have not have not received medical advice to refrain from work and are mentally and physically capable of performing fully the normal regular duties associated with the job they are engaged to do, will be classed as actively at work.

Are members absent from work due to self-isolation classed as ‘Actively at Work’?

Members who are absent from work due to self-isolation following guidance from their employer, but who have not received medical advice to refrain from work, will be classed as actively at work.

If an employee has been furloughed, is temporarily working reduced hours or is temporarily on a reduced salary (including those under the Job Support Scheme), how will this affect their benefit?

Furloughed employees, those temporarily working reduced hours or those temporarily on a reduced salary (including employees who are working under the Job Support Scheme) will continue to be covered for their full benefit entitlement, providing their contract of employment is maintained and premiums are paid on this basis. It’s important that the data provided to us during this time reflects the full salary for each individual, and not the reduced amount that might be paid.

Cover will continue in line with our temporary absence provisions i.e. up to 3 years for Group Life and Group Critical Illness policies and up to 1 year for Group Income Protection policies.

For furloughed employees, benefits will be calculated from the date of last attendance. For employees temporarily working reduced hours, benefits will be calculated from the date they last worked their full contracted number of hours. For employees temporarily on a reduced salary, benefits will be calculated from the date prior to when the temporary change to salary was made.

Where employers claim a percentage of an employees usual monthly wage cost from the Government, either through furlough or the Job Support Scheme, how will this affect their benefit?

Our understanding is that the contractual salary will remain in place. Where a salary definition includes reference to “Basic salary”, this will remain at 100%. Where a salary definition includes reference to “Total Earnings”, we will use the annual equivalent of his or her earnings in that period (or since joining the ’employer’, if later). For Group Income Protection, bonuses will need to be averaged over the preceding three years in line with our standard terms and conditions.

This stance will be reviewed on 30th April 2021 or if there is a change in Government support prior to this date.

Please note that these are all subject to Canada Life’s standard terms and conditions.

Eligibility is linked to pension scheme membership. Will cover continue if employees temporarily reduce or stop contributing to the relevant pension scheme?

Yes. We can maintain cover for employees who were previously insured as pension scheme members if they choose to reduce or stop their regular contributions until 30th April 2021. This includes insurance for employee pension contributions under a Group Income Protection policy. Membership data and premium payment will need to reflect that the employees are still considered pension scheme members.

After the 30th April 2021, employees will be expected to become ‘active’ members of the scheme again and restart regular pension scheme contributions. However, this stance will be reviewed prior to this date in response to further Government updates.

Will Group Income Protection cover be reduced for employees who have been furloughed or who have temporarily had their salaries or hours reduced (including those under the Job Support Scheme)?

As long as premiums and data continue to reflect the full, contracted salaries, we will maintain cover accordingly. Please note, our standard terms and conditions will continue to apply.

Will you maintain cover for employees who are volunteering?

Yes, as long as the contract of employment is maintained and premiums continue to be paid, cover will continue in line with our standard temporary absence provisions.

Are you requesting medical evidence to complete a medical underwriting decision in light of the current pandemic and strain on the health service?

We have a very experienced Medical Underwriting team, plus very capable Medical Officers, who will endeavour to assess Health Declarations without contacting GP’s / Specialists for further information. We can also utilise the experience and expertise of our reinsurers.

If additional information is required due to disclosures on a Health Declaration, we will look to engage the member for letters or other supporting evidence (such as recent company medicals) to avoid burdening the health service.

Other methods of collecting evidence will also be considered where appropriate, but we will look to adopt a pragmatic approach wherever possible.


If you need to understand how your employee benefits are affected by the Pandemic then email your advo account manager and they will be able to help. Alternatively email advo on to start a conversation.


You can view the Canada Life news post in full here.