The legal risks of being an unmarried couple – 5 tips for cohabitating employees

Research by the ONS in 2017 revealed that the fastest growing family type over a 20-year period was the cohabiting couple family, which more than doubled from 1.5 million families in 1996 to 3.3 million families in 2017. This represents 15 per cent of all families and concurs with the findings of Epoq’s Employee Benefits Survey 2018, where 17 per cent of respondents said they were unmarried couples.

There are, however, a number of legal issues associated with being an unmarried couple and to ensure employees in this situation are informed, we’ve produced 5 legal tips* to help cohabitating couples minimise the risks and protect their interests.

1. Make a will

One of the biggest advantages of being married is that when one spouse dies, the surviving spouse automatically inherits the deceased estate, even if he or she hadn’t made a will to name their spouse as a beneficiary.

In the case of unmarried couples, however, if one partner dies without making a will, the surviving partner won’t be entitled to receive anything and could be left in serious financial straits or even homeless. It’s therefore very important that cohabitating couples each make a will and keep it updated to specify exactly what they’d like their partner to inherit when they die.

In addition, parents whether married or not, can use a will to appoint a guardian who would be responsible for looking after any children aged under 18 in the event that both parents die.

2. Own your property as ‘joint tenants’ or ‘tenants in common’

By law, a married person is entitled to matrimonial home rights, which means their spouse cannot force them to leave the matrimonial home if the relationship breaks down.

Cohabitees don’t automatically have this protection, so should consider owning their home as ‘joint tenants’ or ‘tenants in common’ as this gives ownership rights to both partners. As joint tenants, the couple will own the property equally; whereas with tenants in common, it’s possible to own a specific share of the property, so for example, one partner could own 60% and the other 40%.

Joint tenants own the property equally, so if one partner dies before the other the surviving partner automatically gets sole ownership of the property. In the case of tenants in common, the surviving partner will only be entitled to the other partner’s share in the property if a will has been made expressly gifting that share of the property to them.

3. Make a cohabitation agreement

When a couple are married they legally jointly own their assets and financial responsibilities and if they split up, there is legislation to determine how the financial matters are dealt with.

For unmarried couples the situation is not so clear cut. To avoid future disputes it’s important that there is clarity regarding the responsibilities for day-to-day finances like paying the mortgage or rent, utility bills or council tax, as well as the ownership of belongings, such as furniture and other household effects.

Creating a cohabitation agreement is a useful way for unmarried couples to set-out a number of aspects of their relationship, including the ownership of property, arrangements for children and how general household expenditure will be dealt with. Equally importantly, a cohabitation agreement allows couples to specify how they would want their assets to be divided should they separate and, in the event of a dispute between the couple, this agreement will be taken into consideration by the courts.

4. Make a power of attorney

Powers of attorney allow an individual to nominate one or more people to look after their finances or general wellbeing in the event that they become unable to do so themselves, typically through an illness such as dementia or a debilitating accident.

Though presumed to be designed for elderly parents to give authority to one or more of their children to look after their affairs, a power of attorney can be used in a number of other situations. For cohabiting couples who face more hurdles in accessing their partner’s finances in an emergency, these documents are useful in enabling them to protect each other’s interests should the need arise. Through a power of attorney, one of a couple can be given authority to access the other’s bank account and pay bills, for example and also make decisions about the sort of care their partner should receive.

5. Ensure the father of any children has parental responsibility

‘Parental responsibility’ allows an individual to make decisions about all aspects of their child’s life and is automatically given to the child’s birth mother and her husband or civil partner.

However, unmarried fathers do not automatically have parental responsibility for their child. It can be acquired if they register the birth of child with the mother or enter into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother and register it at a court. Without parental responsibility, the father would not be entitled to have a say in any aspect of their child’s life.

Research: Employees aged 55 plus are disengaged with their employee benefits

A lot has been written about today’s multi-generational workforce(s) and the pressure on employers to offer benefits that cater for the needs of all employees. In our last article, we reported on the findings of our most recent employee benefit survey which revealed that younger employees are using benefits more widely than their older colleagues. For this article, we have drilled down into the data a bit more to look specifically at the usage trends of employees aged 55 and over and what this is telling us about their needs.

So what benefits do older employees want and why is usage of existing benefits currently so low?

Profile of the 55+ employee

When we look at the demographic make up of employees from this age group, we find that, as to be expected, the majority are homeowners, but a significant minority (21%) are living in rented accommodation. Furthermore, 28% have children aged 18 or over living with them and whilst 69% have lost a parent, 31% have at least one living parent. In addition, 34% have been divorced and 10% are currently living as an unmarried couple.

All of these circumstances have legal and/or financial implications for the employees concerned and many require expert advice and guidance in order to manage them. And, for other events like the death of parent or divorce, emotional support and counselling is just as important as legal advice.

The generation a gap

Given this profile, you might expect employees in this age group to use benefits that help them deal with many of the problems or issues that crop up during their lives. However, our research has revealed that the 55 plus age group use the benefits at a significantly lower rate than their younger colleagues – just 3%, compared to 12% for employees aged between 18 and 34.

As an example, while 11% of employees aged between 18 and 34 had accessed medical appointments through their employer, only 2% of the 55 plus age group had. Similarly, 29% of employees aged between 18 and 34 had taken advantage of flexible working hours, compared to 16% of the 55 plus age group.

There was also very low usage amongst the 55 plus age group of benefits such as confidential advice lines (2%), discount vouchers (3%) and health screening (3%).

Value versus usage paradox

So, is it that these employees simply don’t have the need for these services or is it that they are reluctant to use them? Looking at the results of our 2018 and 2017 surveys in conjunction, it seems that the latter may be the case. In 2017, we asked employees to tell us how valuable they would find a range of products and services if they were provided as a benefit by their employer. When we compare the results of this survey with those of 2018, we find a gap in what employees value and what they actually use.

For example, in 2017 64% of employees aged 55 plus said they would value financial advice as a benefit, yet only 1% of responders to our 2018 survey had used this benefit. Similarly, 82% rated legal advice, but only 2% had engaged with this service. Given the profile of this group, one would expect a much higher take up of services that help them sort out their financial and legal affairs as they near retirement.

Desire for support outside of work

When we asked if employees would like their employer to help them deal with issues outside of work, the results revealed that though lower than other age groups, over half (54%) of the 55 plus group would like help to deal with a number of problems. In particular, they would like help in dealing with the illness or death of a family member (32%), dealing with stress, depression or other mental health issues (27%), planning for retirement (27%) and getting access to medical diagnostics/treatment (17%).

6 reasons why employees should make a will

I’m sure most of your employees know what a will is, but I expect many of them have put off making one, thinking it’s something they can do later on in life. In fact, our own research conducted by Opinium in 2017 showed that, overall, only 41% of adults in the UK had made a will and, more worryingly, only 16% of those aged between 25 to 34 and 26% of those aged between 35 and 44 had made one. These are the age groups most likely to have young dependent children and, increasingly, many of them will be living together without being married.

By not having a will in place, these employees are putting the future security of their partners and children at risk. Dying without a will means the State effectively decides how the deceased’s assets – their property, money and belongings – are distributed, regardless of what he or she might have wanted. And, if a couple are unmarried, the partner left behind is not automatically entitled to inherit anything. This can make an already distressing situation more stressful and create conflict between family members. It can also result in delays in getting matters resolved. The knock-on effect for employers can be longer employee absences from work and the resulting losses in productivity often leading to fracturing of workplace relationships.

So, what can employers do to help?

Perhaps the first step is to be aware of the reasons why an employee might need to make a will at key points in their lives. To help, we’ve listed six key life events which should prompt every employee to make or update their will.

Secondly, employers should consider providing a will writing service as an integral part of an employee assistance or financial wellbeing programme. Financial advice, counselling services and legal helplines are, of course, important components of an employee assistance programme, but by enabling employees to proactively protect the interests of their loved ones in advance, a will writing service can make an EAP even more robust.

Reasons why your employees should make a will


Research: Younger employees more likely to use workplace benefits

In our 2017 employee benefits survey, we asked 2,002 UK adults to tell us how valuable they would find certain services if they were provided by their employer as part of a benefits package. The results revealed two clear winners, with pensions (95%) and flexible working (91%) valued the most highly. Third place went to health insurance (89%) and fourth, jointly to legal advice and life insurance (87%). It appears then that employees look to employers to help them protect their health and financial interests, as well as achieve a work-life balance through flexible working hours.

Our follow-up survey conducted in June this year, aimed to find out what benefits are actually being used by employees. Research company, Opinium, conducted an online survey of 1,234 employed adults in the UK, who were shown a list of sixteen benefits and asked which if any were available to them and which of them they had used.

So, what’s on offer?

The results of the survey revealed that the most commonly offered benefits from the list were; time off to deal with personal matters (57%), flexible working hours (54%), cycle to work scheme (36%), counselling services (35%), childcare vouchers (33%), discount vouchers (33%), confidential advice lines (30%) and financial advice and health screening (24%).

The least commonly offered benefits were; legal documents, such as wills (15%), company cars (18%), health cash plans and legal advice (20%) medical advice/GP appointments and gym membership (22%) and free fruit in the workplace (23%).

However, 13% of responders claimed not to know whether some of the benefits on the list were offered by their employer or not, so the overall availability of each benefit could be higher.

And what’s being used?

The findings relating to the actual usage of benefits revealed a surprising low level of usage overall and gaps between some of the most widely available benefits and rates of usage. For example, although cycle to work schemes were the third most widely offered benefit (36%), only 6% of employees had used them. Similarly, childcare vouchers were used by only 5% of responders, despite 33% saying they were offered as a benefit.

The top five most widely used benefits from the list were: flexible working hours (22%), time off work to deal with a personal issue (16%), free fruit in the workplace (10%), discount vouchers (9 %) and health screening and gym membership (7%).

The least widely used benefits were; legal documents, such as wills (3%), financial advice, legal advice and childcare vouchers (5%) and cycle to work schemes, medical advice/GP appointments, counselling services, company car, health cash plan, confidential advice line (6%).

The popularity of flexible working tallies with our previous survey where 91% of employees said they value this kind of benefit. However, the low usage of counselling services (6%) and legal advice (5%), shows gap between what’s valued and what’s actually used. In our last survey, counselling services were valued by 70% of respondents and legal advice by 87%. This, of course, may simply be that employees rarely encounter the need for these services, but value the fact that they are available to them should the need arise.

Demographic differences

When we looked at the difference usage levels between genders, it appears that, perhaps unsurprisingly, more women (22%) than men (16%) are taking advantage of flexible working hours. However, usage of the other benefits listed were pretty equal between genders.

A difference in usage across age groups was more pronounced with, on average, 12% of employees in their 20s using one or more of the benefits listed, compared to just 4% of employees in their 50s. The average usage rates for other age groups were; 30s (9%), 40s (6%) and 60s (3%). The higher usage levels amongst younger employees could be that, as they are likely to earn less than their older colleagues, they get more financial value from the benefits on offer, so use them more.

When looking at these findings in conjunction with our previous research, it appears that while the actual usage of many benefits is occasional, employees genuinely value the availability of them to call on in times of need. I believe, therefore, that employers should look to make a wide range of benefits available, even if on a discounted basis, whilst accepting that usage levels overall are likely to be quite low. Just the existence of benefits gives employees peace of mind and helps to engender their trust and loyalty to their employer.

And, whilst it is encouraging to see younger employees being actively engaged with their benefits, our research suggests that perhaps employers should be doing more to make their benefits more relevant and attractive to their older employees.

Read the complete findings here.

To learn more about Epoq’s legal wellbeing service, email us or call on 020 8731 2424.

Research: Over half (66%) of UK employees want their employer to help them deal with issues experienced outside of work

Today, much is written about the need for employers to address the mental, physical and financial wellbeing of their employees, but to what extent do employees want their employer to get involved with issues that affect them outside of work?

To find out, Epoq commissioned research company, Opinium, to survey UK employees to get their views. In total, 1,234 employees completed an online questionnaire which asked if they would like their employer to help them deal with a range of issues encountered outside work. The results revealed the areas employees most want help with, as well as some interesting differences in gender and age groups.

Demand for support

Overall, more than half (66%) of employees said they would like their employer to help them deal with certain problems or issues encountered outside of work, with more women (71%) than men (63%) saying they would like help.

When looking at the areas employees want help with, family and mental health issues in particular stand out, with 39% saying they would like help to deal with the illness or death of a family member, 38% said dealing with stress, depression or other mental health issues, 25% help with childcare arrangements and 21% help to look after elderly parents.

Demographic differences

The results by gender show that, perhaps unsurprisingly, more women than men would like help in these areas: illness or death of family member (45% women compared to men at 34%), mental health issues (43% women compared to men at 33%), childcare arrangements (28% of women compared to 21% of men) and looking after elderly parents (25% compared to men at 16%). Women are also more likely to want help with looking after as sick pet (12%) compared to men (6%).

The differing needs between age groups is also quite pronounced with, on average, 21% of people in their 20s saying they would like help from their employer, but only 8% of people aged 60+ feeling the same need. Overall, on average of 15% of employees in their 30s and 40s would like some help, with only 12% of people in their 50s seeking support.

And, as to be expected, the younger generations want help with financial matters more than their colleagues in their 40s, 50s and 60s. 19% of employees in their 20s want help in this area with 10% of people in their 30s; 9% in their 40s, 5% in their 50s and 3% in their 60s.

Help with health and financial wellbeing

Staying with financial matters, although help with retirement planning is similar for men and women at 28% and 27% respectively, and consistent across people in their 20s, 30s and 40s at 9%, it drops to 5% for people in their 50s and 60s. This may suggest the employees in these age groups have sorted their retirement plans earlier in their careers.

When it comes to losing weight or getting fit, 30% of employees in their 20s would like help from their employer compared to 21% of people in their 50s and 8% of people in their 60s. The rate for people in their 30s and 40s was 19% and 20% respectively. Perhaps employers could do more to make their fitness benefits more attractive to older workers?

Complete support

Andrew Walker, commercial director at Epoq comments: “I believe this research highlights the broad range of needs in an increasingly diverse workforce. It is clear that employees do look to their employer for support in a number of areas and that these will vary according to the age and gender of the employee. It’s therefore essential to tailor benefits and give employees the tools to help them deal with matters on their own alongside direct support where necessary as part of a well-rounded and modern wellbeing model.”

Read the complete findings here.

For information about Epoq’s employee benefits service, please email us or call on 020 8731 2424.

Press release: Employees value their pets over their income

New research by Epoq Legal indicates that employees are more likely to insure their pets than their salary.

Epoq’s new research into employee-paid and self-paid insurance benefits, reveals that 32% of those surveyed have pet insurance in comparison to 25% with some form of income protection. The research was conducted by Opinium in June 2018 among 1,234 employees from across the UK.

The majority (23%) have paid for the pet insurance themselves, with the remaining 8% receiving it as an employee benefit, in comparison to just 14% of people who choose to pay for income protection themselves (and 12% employer-paid).

This suggests that pet insurance is a form of cover and employee benefit that is valued by employees more than income protection, despite income protection generally considered to be one of the most important forms of insurance for employees to have as it replaces your salary if you can no longer work due to illness or disability.

Employees were more likely to buy pet insurance than critical illness cover (31%), private medical insurance (31%), phone/gadget insurance (30%), dental insurance (25%) or income protection (25%). Bearing in mind all employees surveyed will be earning an income, but not all will have a pet, this seems to be a concerning misallocation of priorities.

Tom Conner from employee benefits adviser Drewberry says: “I would encourage employers to offer some form of income protection more widely to staff as it is generally the most important form of cover for those of working age. It is certainly more important than pet insurance and I would advise employees that, if they are going to source any form of long term insurance themselves, income protection should probably be top of the list.”

Legal advice is undersupplied as an employee benefit

Meanwhile, the survey also revealed that, despite 87% of respondents saying they valued legal advice as an employee benefit in last year’s Epoq survey, only 15% of respondents this year say they receive that benefit. In addition, just 12% say they have access to legal documents, such as wills, through their employer.

Tom Conner continues: “It is also important for employees to receive expert guidance on how to best ensure that their life insurance payout is allocated properly in the event of death, through wills and trusts, for example.”

So, are employers offering the right mix of benefits to employees? In part, it may depend on age. In the 18-34 age group the research showed that 45% agreed that ‘My employer offers benefits that are relevant to my stage in life’, but this drops to 32% among the 35-54 age group and 18% for those who are 55+.

Epoq Commercial Director, Andrew Walker says: “While medical and life insurance were understandably the most common forms of employer paid insurance, there may be room to add extra value to the type of employee benefits on offer.

“For example, last year’s Epoq research found that just over two-fifths of respondents (41%) have a will, the majority of whom (45%) are in the 65+ age bracket. Oddly, the ages at which most people are most likely to have a mortgage and dependants represent the age brackets least likely to have a will (9% in the 25 – 34 age bracket and 10% in the 35 – 44 age bracket),” says Walker.

“This suggests there are lots of people of working age that need to create important legal documents like wills, but aren’t doing so, possibly due to lack of advice, awareness or simply a lack of convenient access to the right services.

“Clearly there’s a need here and if employers were to provide a wills service as a benefit, it stands to reason that more people would more likely choose to make one and so protect their interests and those of their loved ones.”

Read the full findings here.

For more information about Epoq’s employee benefits service, please email us or call on 020 8731 2424.

The generation gap: research by Epoq reveals that younger employees are more satisfied with the range and relevance of benefits than their older colleagues.

A survey of 1,234 employees carried out by Opinium on behalf of Epoq has revealed that employees in their 20s and 30s are more satisfied with the range of benefits available to them, with 52% of employees in their 20s and 47% in their 30s agreeing that their employer offers a wide range of benefits.

Those least satisfied are in the 60+ age group, with only 15% of them agreeing that their employer offers a wide-range of benefits, followed by people in their 50s (22%) and 40s (35%).

Overall, 38% of employees believe that their employer offers a wide-range of benefits and of that number, slightly more men (39%) than women (37%) are happy with the choice of benefits on offer.

Employees were also asked if they consider that their employer offers benefits that are relevant to their stage in life.

Again, it appears that the younger generation are more satisfied, with 46% of those in the 20s agreeing with the statement and 45% of those in their 30s. Only 17% of the 60+ group and 20% of employees in their 50s felt that the benefits on offer were relevant to them.

Overall, 35% of employees agree that their employer provides benefits that are relevant to their stage in life, with little difference shown between the genders – 35% of women and 34% of men agreed with the statement.

The extent to which employees believe employers will support them when they encounter problems outside work was also assessed by the survey.

Encouragingly, nearly half of employees (47%) felt that their employer would support them; 55% of people in their 20s compared with 54% of those in their 30s. The age groups least confident of employer support were the 60+ (33%) and 50s (33%). There was no significant difference between men (47%) and women (48%).

Finally, employees were asked how well-informed they felt about the range of benefits available to them and nearly half (47%) of them said they felt this was done well by their employer. Those feeling the most well informed were employees in their 20s and 30s (54%), followed by those in their 40s (43%), 50s (39%) and 60+ (38%).

Andrew Walker, commercial director at Epoq comments: “These results show a consistent trend in that younger employees feel better served by their employer with regard to the benefits on offer. With more emphasis than ever being placed on wellbeing and given the multi-generational nature of the current workforce, it’s vital that employers constantly strive to deliver benefits packages that meet the needs of all age groups and lifestyles. While there is much to be applauded in these results it is clear that there is still work to do in this area.”

Read the complete findings here.

For more information about our employee benefit products, email us or call on 020 8731 2424.

Webinar: What’s missing in today’s employee wellbeing programmes?

Wednesday 18th April 2018 – 10:00 – 10:20

Our research has shown that:

• 93% of people have experienced at least one consumer rights/legal problem*
• 54% of problems are left unresolved*
• 43% of people feel frustrated; 36% feel angry*
• 59% do not have a Will*

What can employers do to help employees deal with legal problems and minimise stress and absences from work?

Find out during our latest 20-minute webinar when we will explain how a legal services benefit can play an important role in the provision of more well-rounded wellbeing programmes that are relevant to a multi-generational workforce.

Register here.

We do hope you can join us, but if you can’t and would like to learn more about our legal services benefit, please don’t hesitate to email or phone on 020 8731 2424.

* Epoq survey of 2,002 consumers conducted by Opinium, May 2017

Increasing the engagement of older employees: how a legal services benefit can help

Recent figures by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that the UK now has more than 10 million workers aged fifty and above1; a figure likely to increase over the years as the age at which people can take their state pensions rises.

What does this mean for employers keen to keep their workforce motivated, engaged and loyal?

Key facts:

• The UK now has more than 10 million workers aged fifty and above1
• By the middle of the 2020s it is projected that one-in-three workers will be aged 50 and above. In 1992 it was one-in-five2
• Of the 10 million over-50 workers, 1.2 million are aged 65 and above. In 1992 there were fewer than 500,0001
• Just 15% of people aged between 55 to 64 and 23% of aged 65+ have made a power of attorney3
• Nearly half (43%) of people aged between 55 to 64 and 63% of those aged 45 to 54 have not made a will3
• Just 3% of people aged between 55 to 64 and 4% of aged 65+ have made a living will3

Increasingly, employers are using benefits as way to both attract and retain high-performing employees. This is especially true where wages have remained static or there are high levels of competition within job sectors.

Over the years, the range of benefits being offered to employees has expanded and now include services designed to help workforces stay healthy, both physically and mentally. In addition to the more established benefits such as pensions, company cars and private medical insurance, many employers now offer counselling services, gym membership, free fruit and mindfulness sessions, to name just a few. Financial advice, too, has become a more prevalent benefit as the impact of employee financial hardship on workplace productivity has been recognised.

However, employers are also beginning to recognise that tailoring benefits to the needs of employees at specific points in their lives is crucial if rates of engagement are to be improved. Our own research3 revealed a variance in the level importance attached to certain benefits according to the age of employees. For example, 92% of employees aged between 18 and 24 valued gym membership, whereas only 40% of those aged 55 to 64 did. And, as you’d expect 63% of employees aged between 25 and 34 valued childcare vouchers, but only 9% of those aged 55 to 64 did.

The same survey showed that access to legal advice and help creating legal documents, such as wills was rated highly across all age groups, perhaps reflected in the low numbers of survey respondents who had made a will (41%), power of attorney (12%) or living will (5%).

The need for legal services tends to increase with age, as older people start to think about the future and how to protect their interests and those of their families. An employee in their 50s, for example, could have dependent children, as well as aging parents who need help sorting out their financial and legal affairs. And, as people live longer and the number affected by diseases such as dementia grow, the need to have legal documents such as lasting powers of attorney or living wills in place, becomes more urgent.

Giving employees in this situation easy access to services which help them plan ahead and safeguard their interests with documents such as wills, powers of attorney, trusts or living wills, can help to increase engagement with a benefits scheme and build loyalty to the employer. And, when these services are made available via an online portal, employers will benefit from reduced absences from work, as well as less stressed employees.

For more information about our legal services benefit, please email or call us on 020 8731 2424.

1 ONS Labour Market Statistic, 24 January 2018
2 Aviva/ONS
3 Epoq Consumer Needs Research, 2017

10 reasons to offer an online will writing service

Most people know that a will is an important legal document, but many put off making one because the fear the process is going to be complex, time consuming and costly. Epoq’s online will writing service is available as an add-on to an insurance or other consumer product and offers a simple, stress-free and cost-effective way to make a will. Below is some feed-back from users of our service:

“I’m so happy I have sorted out my will. I didn’t think it could be so straight forward.”

“Very efficient, easy to use service. l’m delighted to have finally got my will sorted.”

“Encouraged me to finally write my will.”

“A great service available for amazing value for money. We needed simple mirror wills, which would have cost much more if we had to use a solicitor. Very happy that we included this service in our house insurance policy.”

“I was unsure to start with but the online process was very easy to follow and gave relevant advice as required to ensure the questions were answered correctly.”

“I have been needing to rewrite our will for a while now but it is quite daunting. Using this facility was far less intimidating.”

“Took the negative emotion out of writing a will.”

“Great. Feel really reassured I have my will sorted how I want it. Great peace of mind for me.”

“I was delighted to use the service without having to go to a solicitor. I decided there and then not to put off any longer making my will and I feel happy that it is now done and legal. Thank you!”

“A very easy way to save both time and money and get peace of mind knowing that your family will have no trouble knowing your wishes at a very stressful time.”

To find out more about our online will writing service, simply email us or call on 020 8731 2424.