Towergate Health & Protection is urging employers to prioritise health and wellbeing benefits during the Covid crisis.
Although many firms are under financial pressure, the advisory groups warns that suspending health and wellbeing benefits puts employees and their own businesses at risk.
This remain important at a time when healthcare facilities remain under intense pressure with increasing demand on these services. Towergates also points out that employees’ physical and mental health may also be compromised during the strain of the current situation.
Towergate Health and Protection distribution director Brett Hill says: “Under these extreme circumstances, staff of all ages are looking to employers to support them through this challenging time.
“Actions taken now will leave a lasting impression about how employees feel about the organisation in the future. It’s important that, wherever possible, employers maintain support – particularly when it comes to employee health and wellbeing.
“Whereas a general correlation could be drawn between different age groups and uptake of certain health and wellbeing benefits, all ages now have a heightened interest in health in the wake of the pandemic. As healthcare provisions risk becoming more stretched as a result of coronavirus, many employees are actively monitoring how their organisations will support their wellbeing during this challenging phase.”
He says it is important to provide continuity in the provision of employee benefits to ensure employees are not left high and dry at a time when they need support most. For instance if firms cut back on PMI benefits this could could leave some employees not be able to continue with treatment started prior to this pandemic.
Hill says: “To abruptly stop healthcare benefits as a cost-cutting exercise can leave employees vulnerable. They may have to personally fund treatment, at a time when they can least afford it, or try and continue treatment in an over-stretched NHS.”
Towergate says it is worthwhile for businesses to discuss with their advisers ways to adapt services, or introduce new benefits — and to find out what’s available under many of these policies.
Organisations may be surprised to learn that there are added-value benefits within their existing schemes that they were unaware of, or yet to fully utilise.
For example, group risk protection schemes often come with employee assistance programmes (EAPs), allowing employees to confidentially discuss any concerns they have with a professional. PMI schemes may include access to mental health apps, helping employees navigate through a range of complex emotions during this extraordinary time. Speaking with benefits advisers can help unlock useful support for the health and wellbeing of the workforce.
Towergate also points out that if employers halt healthcare benefits – be it PMI or group risk cover – they may need to have employees medically underwritten when this is restarted. This may mean an increase in premium costs, or a curtailment in benefits or additional exclusions.
Towergate adds that suspending and reinstating benefits is not as straightforward as some employers may think.
Health and wellbeing schemes play a crucial role in managing sickness absence and protecting the financial wellbeing of employees. They’re designed to help keep employees healthy and return to work more quickly should they fall ill. Without providing such support to a workforce, businesses are likely to experience an increase in absence, as diagnoses, treatment and rehabilitation will be slower.
Hill adds: “Research has shown time and again, just how valued health and wellbeing benefits are to employees. And during this pandemic, employees of all ages are watching their employer’s next move when it comes to supporting their health and wellbeing.
“Maintaining continuity of cover and speaking with advisers to see how benefits can be better utilised and adapted will help provide stability to employees when the rest of their lives can feel tumultuous.
“Whilst there may be a temptation to make sweeping cuts in the name of cost savings, the ripple effects it can have on employee engagement and retention – including reinstating health and wellbeing policies at a later date – can be more costly in the long run. Health and wellbeing should always be a priority and sending this message to employees now has never been more important.”