Protection income insurer Unum has called for individual employees covered by group income protection schemes to be given access to the Ombudsman.

The insurer says the Financial Services Authority should widen access further than it currently proposes in its recent consultation paper.

Instead of limiting access to only those employees who have established rights under separate legislation in the Contract (Rights of Third Parties) Act, Unum suggests access should be given to all.

Unum says it believes that access to the Ombudsman should be available to an employee as soon as the employer has submitted a claim to the insurer.

Until the new scheme is introduced the insurer will be offering individuals of a group scheme the right to use the current Insurance Ombudsman Bureau, subject to IOB and employer agreement.

Unum marketing director Eugene McCormack said: "Unum is absolutely committed to maintaining consumer confidence in income protection insurance.

"Our aim will be to go the extra mile and allow access to the Ombudsman to all claimants involved in a dispute."

Currently, members of group income protection schemes do not have automatic access to the Ombudsman because the insurer's contract is with the employer, not the members of the scheme.

As a result some individuals have had difficulty in accessing redress in claims disputes. A spokeswoman for the Insurance Ombudsman said: "We're very favourable to this proposal. We believe that anyone who wants an independent assessment of a dispute should be free to seek one."

In 1999, Unum paid out benefits of more than £67 million to claimants - more than any other disability insurer in the UK.