Friday, 1 July 2016

Corporate Wellness Strategy - do you need one ?

If you are running a business you do not need me to tell you that your work force, the 'human capital' within your business, is of vital importance.

Many companies will have the odd product to help staff health and well-being : medical insurance or income protection, perhaps a cash plan. In most cases very few businesses, certainly very few smaller businesses will have an over-riding strategy to keep staff health, happy and motivated. What follows below are some basic areas of insurance and health products that can assist with this vital area of employee support.

Private Medical Insurance - one of the cornerstones of health protection for a business. Immediate access to private treatment for all employees when needed. The advantages for the staff are fairly self evident and tie in to the main advantages for the company. Access to healthcare with no waiting lists and timed at the most convenient point for the business. Faster access, better treatment (usually) and quicker recuperation times mean staff are healthier, happier and when treatment is needed everything happens faster meaning less time off work sick at it's most basic.

Many insurers will also offer additional added value benefits, usually aimed at providing health related benefits or discounts. These and the core benefits of medical insurance usually mean that staff value PMI benefits over other employee benefit products. This means that as well as a 'health benefit' PMI is also key when recruiting and attempting to retain staff. In other words, words once staff have had this benefit and derived value they will usually be loath to lose it.

It's also worth noting that (as you might imagine) medical insurance is a key benefit that staff will regularly use so often obtaining immediate value from.

Income Protection - I would suggest that income protection is another health cornerstone for employees. Basically a product that pays an income - as the name suggests - when a member is unable to work through sickness. There are usually limits on cover (taking into account statutory disability type payments for example) and often a waiting or qualifying period before the payment kicks in.

In some ways I would view PMI and Income Protection as two sides of the same coin. Medical insurance pays immediately for private treatment then IP kicks in several weeks later (following the qualifying period) usually when the company sick pay ends.

Cash Plans - a product which offers discrete, usually fairly low value, cash benefit across a variety of types of health treatment. Often an adjunct to a PMI scheme or put in place as a low value alternative to full medical insurance. The key benefits of this type of cover tend to be for routine dental treatment and optical cover. As neither of these is typically available within a core medical insurance product there is some value to be found here even if some of the benefits are quite low value.

There is a trend at the moment for cash plan providers to offer a benefit that pays a PMI excess. this can often be a good tactic for companies to reduce overall PMI plan costs whilst adding in additional value for staff. There is some controversy within the market though as to how sustainable this sales tactics, driven by providers, actually is.

Dental Insurance - given the relatively low cash value levels of cash plans full dental insurance can be a useful way of adding in full dental benefits for staff and like PMI employees really value this cover and regularly will use it. Dental is often found in progressive businesses and those whose culture might demand this kind of cover e.g. American owned companies.

It's also worth considering that dental work, whilst not life threatening does often have time off work implications and a properly set up and managed dental scheme, like PMI can seriously cut down time off work for a business.

Health Screening - as part of a drive to create health prevention is is now fairly standard to offer varied health checks (well-person, executive check ups and the like) for senior employees to promote a healthy lifestyle but also ensure key employees are able to work at peak efficiency.

Sickness Absence Management - run and monitored by HR in many cases a full SAM capability handles the notification of illness by staff to the business, reports MI around this to the business and typically handles return to work scenarios and will often liaise with PMI and IP providers to offer initial triage and treatment options. For larger business this program in tandem with other product areas can be useful in understanding their staff absence profile and enable pro-active measures to be undertaken.

Employee Assistance Programs - at their most basic an EAP is simply a helpline aiming to provide staff support around stress and other lifestyle type problems. As currently constituted a modern EAP would typically offer a telephone helpline staffed by counsellors, the possibility of face to face counselling (usually 6 or 8 sessions per annum) and often a legal helpline as well. The advantage for the business is covering off some of their duty of care responsibilities to staff and gaining MI that give insight into staff health and morale. I would point out though that all management information from an EAP would be anonymised. Again an EAP tends to be (although not exclusively) for larger businesses. There can be value though for groups of 45 or 50 staff upwards.

Occupational Health - onsite support usually provided by clinicians (doctors and specialist nurses). This is one of the older forms of health cover for business and despite the increased 'health and safety' culture in which we exist is really a dying art. At one time most factories had a full time Occy. Health capability but more recently most OH is supplied by larger specialist businesses who offer visits from clinicians or helpline support in this area. Increasingly the workplace H & S support is provided by the companies HR function with the NHS or private PMI providers left to catch the fall-out.

There are a number of additional areas of employee benefits - shopping discounts schemes, legal advice, cycling schemes and so on but I have endeavoured to highlight the main 'health' related areas.

Obviously no company (unless they are ridiculously cash rich) would ever provide all of these benefits but proper advice on the companies requirement from a specialist adviser like myself can be valuable. Research has shown (please don't ask me to quote it as I'm struggling to pin down the publication but it was paid for by AXA PPP when they launched a new healthcare plan in the late 1990's) that once a PMI scheme reaches a certain size - around 2,000 lives as I recall - it will literally pay for itself every year in terms of the salary costs it will save by reduction of sickness absence. Given that most companies won't have 2,000 employees we simply need to look at the various products and options out there and consider what the companies problem/historic approach to absence has been and use the above tools in an integrated way to provide solutions.

This is the kind of work I am undertaking with my clients every day of the week and they range in size from 2 man small companies up to corporates with hundreds of employees on cover - each client needs a bespoke approach and an honest appraisal of how to meet their wellness strategy and of course in some cases my assistance to actually design one in the first place !

If you are interested in have an initial discussion and for more information and a free review of your companies health call : 07792 075748 or e-mail :