Group Life Insurance: a guide for employees

As an employee, you probably find yourself wondering what measurements your employer has in place to protect your loved ones if the worst were to happen to you.

In the event of your death, many employers offer ‘group life insurance’.

As the name suggests, group life insurance covers the lives of multiple people. The most common example of group life insurance (and what it’s often referred to as) is death in service.

This provides a tax-free pay out upon the death of an employee to their family.

The value of the pay-out will depend on the cover in place. What’s most common is providing a multiple of the employee’s salary (for example, 3x annual salary).


How does group life insurance work?

Group life insurance works by providing cover for all employees in a company under a single policy. There’s no cover limit, meaning employers can cover anywhere from 10 employees all the way up to 600.

You may hear group life insurance referred to as group term life insurance. This is because employees will only be covered for the term that they’re in employment with the policy holding company.

Unlike individual term life insurance, group life insurance tends to be renewed annually to account for any changes in the number of employees covered.

It’s a common misconception that you need to pass away at your place of work in order for a pay out to be made.

You simply need to still be under employment with the policy holding company when you pass away for your loved ones to receive a pay-out – regardless of your cause of death.

It’s important to note that not all employers offer death in service. To find out if you’re covered you’ll need to consult your employer.

If you don’t have a death in service benefit you may want to consider taking out a life insurance policy to protect certain aspects of your life.


Group vs individual life insurance

The main difference between group and individual life insurance is the number of people covered.

Group life insurance covers multiple people all under the same policy. Whereas an individual policy will only cover the life of one person, unless it is arranged as a joint policy in which case it will cover two.

Group life insurance is also normally paid for by an employer, meaning you won’t have to pay a monthly premium. When you take out your own life insurance policy, you’ll need to pay a premium each month to keep the cover in place.

It’s also important to remember that you’ll only receive death in service while you’re in service. If you leave the company, this cover will expire.

With individual life insurance it’ll be unaffected by any changes once the policy commences. You’ll be covered for a specific period of time (the term) or you can choose to be covered for your entire life.


The cost of group life insurance

Generally speaking, group life insurance is usually cheaper than individual life cover. The cost is often overestimated with 57% of employers presuming the price would far exceed the reality.[1]

For an employee, as discussed, your cover is usually paid for by your insurer.


Advantages of group life insurance

The advantages for group life insurance can be split into two groups; benefits to the employer and benefits to the employee.

The most obvious benefit to employees is the financial protection that the cover will bring to your family should the worst happen to you. Most life insurance providers also offer ongoing bereavement counselling, for your loved ones, to provide emotional support.

With regards to employers, death in service is a fantastic benefit to offer your current and future employees. It’ll help to attract new recruits, maintain employee satisfaction and increase staff retention.

What’s more, death in service is a non allowable business expense. This means that to offer such benefit won’t require you to pay additional tax.


Disadvantages of group life insurance

While the list of group life insurance advantages may significantly outweigh the number of disadvantages, it’s important to take caution when only having group life insurance in place.

Unlike individual cover, which will provide you with cover for a specified amount of time, group life insurance only remains valid whilst you work in your existing company.

Therefore, if you change job roles, you may be offered a less attractive group life policy in your new role (or even nothing at all).

Your age and health significantly affect the cost and ability to obtain individual cover. Therefore, if changing jobs, your older age may lead to higher premiums – making individual cover less affordable.

As a result, it’s always recommended to have individual cover in place as an additional safety net even if you have group life insurance offered through your job.


In summary 

Not everyone is offered death in service by their employers. To see if you receive this benefit, you can ask your employer or consult your contracts.

While this is a good benefit to help relieve the financial strain for your loved ones if the worst were to happen to you, you’ll only receive this benefit if you stay in employment with your current company.

When you have your own individual life insurance policy you’ll be covered for an agreed period of time (or for the rest of your life). Giving you peace of mind that you have the right cover in place to protect your family if you were no longer around.

Obtaining life insurance can seem like a daunting task but it doesn’t have to be. By using a life insurance broker you can compare quotes from leading providers to ensure you’re getting the cover you need for the most cost-effective price.