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Pensions auto-enrolment could encourage employers to increase their group risk provision, research suggests

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Pensions auto-enrolment coming into effect next year is designed to encourage greater saving towards a pension by UK employees but new employer research conducted by Group Risk Development (GRiD) suggests this new initiative could improve uptake of group life assurance provision too.

Almost half (49%) of the employers that do not already offer group risk protection benefits said they would also consider implementing a group life scheme once pensions auto-enrolment becomes law - potentially making major inroads into the country's growing protection gap. Inadequate provision of life insurance is a major issue for the country as a whole and it's growing fast. Latest industry reports put the national life protection gap at £2.4 trillion (£2,400 billion) equating to half the UK adult population (about 24 million people) having a life protection gap averaging £100,000.

When the worst happens, the State is often required to help restore equilibrium through the benefits system - a huge strain particularly in today's age of austerity. The burden on the Welfare State would be far greater were it not for company-sponsored insured benefits, so encouraging greater uptake can only benefit the tax payer.

Faced with a similar situation, Australia implemented a successful programme of auto-enrolment for pensions with life and disability benefits also available. This has revolutionised the system there but GRiD's study suggests that there is an important barrier to overcome before the UK could enjoy such success.

Almost half (49%) of employers who do not currently provide Group Risk protection benefits said they would find the compulsory pension contributions hard enough to fund and would not therefore consider introducing life assurance as well.

Katharine Moxham, spokeswoman for GRiD, said: "It's extremely encouraging to see so many employers are prepared to consider implementing group life alongside pensions auto-enrolment. Implementing a Group Life Assurance policy alongside auto-enrolment would involve a relatively small additional cost compared with the pension contributions that employers will have to make.

"Surely the Government has a role to play in encouraging more employers to invest in this benefit? GRiD is putting forward a simple, ready-made solution in response to the Government's Consultation on Simple Products which could provide the boost employers need to put such a scheme in place."