CII New Generation group finds extensive evidence of second-hand trauma among claims handlers

The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) New Generation Programme claims group has published a report exploring the second-hand trauma experienced by professionals when handling distressing claims.

The study gathered quantitative and qualitative data from more than 200 claims handlers who had been exposed to traumatic cases from across the insurance sector.

Nearly nine in 10 (86%) reported experiencing negative emotions after handling a distressing claim, including guilt, sadness, panic, anxiety, and personal triggers.

All lines of business were found to be impacted, but those operating in property, motor and casualty insurance were found to be most affected.

Respondents reported that the features that made claims particularly distressing included loss, physical or mental suffering, and life-changing injuries.

Respondents were found to be negatively affected by handling these claims both inside and outside the workplace, with 20% reportedly considering a career change based on their experiences. 

Only one in five (22%) said their employer had taken steps to ‘identify, prevent or manage instances where second-hand trauma could arise’, while more than half (56%) answered ‘no’ when asked: ‘If you suffered from stress or mental health problems arising from handling distressing claims, did you feel comfortable disclosing this to your employer?’

Shauna Hopkins, of the 2022/23 CII New Generation claims group, said: “This subject has touched the hearts of many people with whom we have spoken.

“Most of our survey respondents could recall at least one traumatic claim that has stayed with them, but many of them have been discouraged from sharing the impact of those events.

“We want to help change the narrative by encouraging claims handlers to talk about their experiences.

“It is vital that insurers start to recognise the impact of handling traumatic claims and be proactive in supporting their colleagues in order to protect and retain these frontline staff.”

In light of these findings, the New Generation group has set out a series of recommendations for employers.

These include proactively ensuring the potential for second-hand trauma is understood across insurance companies, encouraging employees to talk about their claims with colleagues, managers, or counsellors, developing a culture of openness that does not penalise employees who are experiencing second-hand trauma and more.

Ashton West, chair of the CII claims community board, added: “This report is such an important piece of work.

“I have spent many years working in the insurance profession, either handling or being accountable for the management of claims, many of which have involved fatality, serious injury, loss or destruction of homes and businesses.

“The mental health implications of working with these kinds of cases is often overlooked, and not discussed enough within our profession.

“It’s vital for us to further our understanding and create a more informed workplace so that we can offer our colleagues the necessary support when dealing with traumatic cases.

“In doing so, we will strengthen not only our workforce, but also our quality of service.”