Your health and safety responsibilities are wide-ranging, meaning you must take reasonable care to protect your employees' health at work. This includes carrying out adequate risk assessments to identify risks and set out ways of avoiding or minimising them. Risks can relate to your employees' physical health or mental health.
Health and safety law includes various regulations governing health and safety management at work.
Six pack regulations
The 'six pack' health and safety regulations govern the way you manage health and safety in your workplace. Some of the regulations cover the facilities you must provide, for example, proper toilet and handwashing facilities. There's also health and safety law regarding the workplace layout, for example, ensuring that pedestrians and vehicles have separate traffic routes and safe crossing places where necessary.
Some regulations cover specific types of work, such as the use of display screen equipment. There is also health and safety law relating to manual handling, the provision of personal protective equipment and safe work equipment generally.
Depending on the nature of your work, there may also be other legislation to consider. Many work-related health conditions can result from working with chemicals, so the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations apply. There are also laws about how to work safely at height.
Carrying out proper risk assessments will likely involve considering a mixture of factors and the regulations that govern them.
Stress at work
Your duty of care to your employees includes looking after their mental health and preventing work-related stress. Stress and poor mental health account for approximately 12.7% of all sickness absences in the UK, so could significantly impact your business unless you take appropriate steps to support your employees' mental well-being.
You can carry out risk assessments to identify potential causes of stress and poor mental health as you would for physical health concerns. Training can allow managers and staff to recognise the signs of stress and seek support when needed. Supporting good mental health can involve a wide range of measures, including managing workloads effectively. If staff are required to work late regularly, take work home, or face constant last-minute deadlines, this can negatively impact their mental health.
In some cases, a long-term mental health issue can be classed as a disability, so you should also be mindful of your duty to make reasonable adjustments under the Disability Discrimination Act 2010 should this affect a member of your team. Adjustments could include changes to the type of work an employee carries out or a move to flexible working to minimise additional stressors.
The health and safety executive offers helpful guidance on the causes of workplace stress, how to carry out a risk assessment and ways to manage stress and provide support to employees. You can find out more here.
When you provide health insurance to your team, you can offer coverage as a standard part of their employee benefits package or as a voluntary scheme. If you fund private health insurance for your employees through your company, you pay the premiums to provide health insurance to every employee. You can opt to include conditions about which employees are covered. For example, a new starter may need to complete their probation period before you add them to the policy.
Business health insurance is provided as a group policy, meaning your insurance company can spread the risk that someone will claim over a larger group. This means that business health insurance is typically cheaper per head than an individual policy. If you prefer, you can give employees the choice to join the scheme and pay premiums themselves.
Whichever option you choose, health insurance allows your employees to access private healthcare when needed. The available treatment depends on the terms and conditions of your chosen policy and what you choose to include in your health insurance coverage.
Private health insurance includes various options that allow you to tailor your coverage to suit your needs and budget. Every policy includes some types of coverage as standard. These typically include in-patient and day-patient treatment, cancer care and mental health support. The types of treatment a policy includes vary between providers, so it's worth getting a comparison quote to get the best possible coverage for your budget. There will typically be financial limits on the amount of treatment or the number of sessions included.
You can choose a standard policy for your business health insurance or add optional extras to provide more comprehensive coverage. We think that one of the most worthwhile optional extras is outpatient coverage. Outpatient treatment includes diagnostic tests and scans, consultant appointments and outpatient therapies, for example, physiotherapy. Including outpatient care on your business health insurance lets employees get a quick diagnosis rather than waiting to see an NHS consultant.
You can also add other optional extras, such as dental and optical cover, or extend the financial limits that apply to your policy.
Every health insurance policy has exclusions. Some are standard exclusions that an insurance company applies to every policy. These typically include care for straightforward pregnancy and childbirth, treatment for alcoholism or addiction and cosmetic or weight-loss surgery. Most insurance companies have a similar list of standard exclusions. However, some have more standard exclusions than others. It's vital that you check to see what's excluded before choosing a policy, being mindful of any particular hazards or work-related health conditions within your industry.
Health insurance also doesn't cover chronic conditions requiring long-term management, such as asthma, diabetes or high blood pressure.
Other exclusions vary depending on an employee's medical history. Pre-existing conditions are defined as any health issue an employee sought advice or treatment for in the five years before they joined the policy. These conditions are excluded for the first two years of coverage but can be covered later if your employee remains symptom-free.
Your employees may need to complete a health questionnaire when they join the scheme, depending on the underwriting your policy has.
Several factors affect the cost of your business health insurance. Some relate to your business, while others relate to the policy itself. You can claim corporation tax relief on your business health insurance premiums. Getting professional advice on your financial and tax position before investing in health insurance is a good idea.
Before an insurance provider gives you a health insurance quote, they'll carry out a risk assessment to determine the likelihood that someone will claim on the policy. They'll also consider how much they'll likely spend on claims on the policy. Their assessment will include the following factors:
If your business is based in Central London, the cost of private healthcare will be higher, so your policy will cost more. Your location affects the price of rent, staff wages and utility costs, among other things.
Number of employees
A larger workforce allows your insurer to spread the cost of cover over more people, so the cost per head will be lower.
The average age of your employees
Older people are more likely to claim than younger employees.
If your work is mainly office-based, you'll pay less than if your employees carry out more hazardous work, such as manufacturing or construction.
These factors relate to the policy itself.
How much cover you need
The more you want the policy to cover, the more you'll pay. A basic policy is cheaper than a comprehensive one.
Whether you extend coverage to your employees' family members
Some policies offer full coverage to an employee's family members or can provide full coverage for the employee and a cashback plan for their relatives.
The type of underwriting on your policy
There are three different types of underwriting available on business health insurance policies. Moratorium underwriting and full medical underwriting both exclude pre-existing medical conditions from coverage. Full medical underwriting is cheaper as your employees provide health information when they join, so there's greater certainty about what's excluded.
You can also choose medical history disregarded underwriting. This doesn't exclude any pre-existing medical conditions. Unsurprisingly, it's also the most expensive.
Private health insurance gives your employees quick access to private treatment when needed. However, health insurance can also help you meet your duty of care to look after your employees' health.
The types of coverage available within standard health insurance policies offer support and guidance that employees can access whenever they choose. Most health insurance policies include virtual GP appointments, health helplines where they can speak to a qualified nurse or specialist advisor in a particular health issue or more general health and well-being information online.
Depending on your business size and the number of employees you have, your policy can also provide resources to help you manage health and well-being and work to improve employees' health. Corporate health insurance can provide support with developing workplace wellness initiatives and change or crisis management services to protect employee health and well-being during stressful times. Speaking to a specialist health insurance broker can help you identify health insurance policies that provide suitable services.
Corporate health insurance is typically only available to companies with over 250 employees. However, business health insurance is available to businesses with as few as two employees. Small business health insurance policies are also tailored to smaller businesses' needs.
Next, we'll look at how business health insurance can help you meet your duty of care in specific ways.
When you carry out a risk assessment, you'll ideally identify specific types of work-related health issues that could arise from the activity you're assessing. These can range from musculoskeletal conditions or repetitive strain injuries resulting from manual handling to mental health conditions caused by heavy workloads or workplace bullying.
Thorough training is essential to ensure your team knows how to carry out a task safely and the potential health risks. Being able to identify the early signs of a potential problem lets employees manage health risks proactively. Business health insurance can play a vital role in identifying health issues and enabling staff to seek early treatment.
Virtual GP services
NHS GP services are in high demand and typically only open during office hours, which can make getting an appointment challenging. Employees may be reluctant to take time off work or to use a GP appointment for something that may seem relatively minor.
However, most health insurance policies include access to a virtual GP service which operates 24/7. These allow your staff to book an online appointment at a convenient time, increasing the likelihood that they'll seek medical advice for minor symptoms before they become more severe. The GP can advise them on appropriate self-care or refer them for further medical treatment. Some private GPs can also sign fit notes, allowing you to appropriately adjust an employee's duties.
Some policies also include self-referrals for physiotherapy treatment, meaning employees can seek medical treatment without needing to see a GP.
Many corporate health insurance policies include health monitoring services that give employees information on their current state of health and advice to help them achieve their well-being goals. Health insurance providers don't share information about individual employees with you. However, they will provide statistics allowing you to identify patterns and areas for improvement. For example, if many employees show signs of stress, you can develop a targeted initiative to work on this.
Health monitoring can also enable employees to seek preventative care or to adjust their behaviour if their health check reveals early symptoms of a health condition. Early treatment can often reduce absenteeism or avoid sickness absence altogether.
Support in developing well-being initiatives
Corporate health insurance can include several tools allowing you to identify potential health concerns among your workforce and take steps to improve employee health. Some health insurance policies offer support to help you develop engaging wellness programs to work on key areas.
The initiatives you create could relate to physical health issues arising from some work tasks. Say your work frequently involves manual handling. You'll likely already have carried out a risk assessment to reduce manual handling as much as possible and provided suitable equipment to help with any remaining manual handling tasks. You can also train your staff to work safely and identify the signs of any potential health issues so they can seek medical treatment when needed. A well-being initiative could go a step further and engage staff in activities that prevent health issues from developing. You could arrange lunchtime yoga sessions or demonstrate simple stretches to do throughout the day.
Conversely, your team may spend most of their time at a desk. Sedentary work carries health risks due to the lack of movement. You could arrange lunchtime walks or activity sessions to increase the amount of movement staff do during their working day.
Mental health support
As we've already mentioned, poor mental health can account for high levels of workplace absence. It's best to take a broad-brush approach to promoting good mental health in the workplace. Managing workloads effectively and setting realistic deadlines to avoid overloading staff allows them to create a good work-life balance. Initiatives that encourage staff to take proper breaks and develop supportive relationships with their colleagues also positively impact their well-being.
Appropriate training enables employees to identify signs of stress and empowers them to manage their health and seek support when needed. It's also vital that you also train managers and your senior management team to address issues appropriately if a colleague asks for help. Some insurers offer workplace training and resources as part of their corporate health insurance policy.
Health insurance provides access to counselling and mental health helplines offering confidential advice, allowing staff to cope with stress and identify appropriate sources of support when needed. For more serious issues, most health insurance policies cover psychiatric treatment.
Most health insurance policies also have a range of perks and benefits, including access to well-being apps. Vitality's health insurance benefits program includes access to the Headspace app, which offers mindfulness and meditation sessions which can help employees manage stress.
Whilst employees shouldn't be left to deal with stress alone, providing them with the tools to manage their mental well-being can be empowering.
Mental health risk assessments
Carrying out a risk assessment allows you to identify potential sources of workplace stress, which could develop into more serious work-related health conditions such as anxiety or depression. You can complete these risk assessments in the same way as you would for physical risks.
There are six main factors that can affect the level of stress your employees experience at work. Acknowledging individual differences is also vital. One employee may experience more stress when bored than when they're busy; however, this can mean they're reluctant to speak up when they have too much to do. Another team member may feel overwhelmed easily and benefit from a reduced workload. Equally, they may need more support to help them prioritise tasks and manage their time.
The main factors which influence employees' stress levels are:
- The level of demand placed on them - this can include any stressors relating to their working hours and environment as well as the amount of work they're given. For example, night shift workers can be at increased risk of stress and anxiety.
- How much control they have over how they organise and carry out their work.
- The level of support they have from their managers and colleagues.
- Workplace relationships and whether they face conflict or challenging relationships.
- Whether they and their colleagues fully understand their roles and duties.
- How you manage change within the company.
Considering these factors can help you to identify potential sources of stress and appropriate measures to reduce these. Your risk assessments will also need to consider who could be affected and what the severity of any potential health issues could be. You should also include any measures you have already taken.
The Health and safety executive provides lots of helpful guidance, including a risk assessment template. You're legally obliged to keep written risk assessments if you have five or more employees. However, even if you have less than five employees, it can be helpful to write risk assessments down so you can refer to them in the future.
Access to mental health treatment and counselling
Depending on your chosen policy, health insurance gives your staff access to confidential counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy. Some providers offer this on a self-referral basis, meaning employees can access a limited number of sessions without needing to see their GP for a referral. Some policies also include family helplines, which you can call for advice on your child's mental and emotional well-being.
Early access to professional help can have a positive impact on your employees' mental well-being and help prevent more serious issues from developing. A survey by the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that 12% of patients waited more than six months to start treatment following a referral, while 6% waited more than a year. Treatment delays resulted in more severe symptoms, which caused difficulties with work and family relationships, leading to job loss and divorce in some cases.
The ability to access appropriate support quickly and easily via employee health insurance will benefit your staff but could also mean that your business retains a valued employee.
Employee Assistance Programs
An Employee Assistance Program can provide different types of support that go beyond counselling. Online resources and telephone helplines allow your staff to discuss mental health concerns but can also offer help with other issues. These may include advice on legal challenges, financial difficulties, and family matters, including divorce, bereavement, childcare and domestic violence. Some services give your employees a platform to discuss problems at work, such as harassment or discrimination.
An EAP can also offer well-being advice, either to help employees improve their overall health or to access private healthcare that isn't covered by their health insurance. There will also typically be online self-help resources on various topics.
Workplace change can be a significant source of stress as it creates uncertainty. Employees often feel that they lack control of the process, which can be a major contributing factor to increased stress levels. Managing a restructuring or redundancy process effectively is essential.
Understanding what you want the process to achieve allows you to prepare your employees and help them understand why change is needed. This helps them to co-operate with the process and make long-term changes. Having a clear plan and a series of defined steps also allows employees to understand what each stage will bring. Effective communication is also vital. Of course, this won't eliminate any stress involved in the process, but it will help. You can still expect to hit obstacles and challenges along the way.
Your health insurance can also be a source of support for both the management team and employees during any significant changes and afterwards. Insurers can also offer support in a crisis by providing employees access to telephone helplines or a counsellor to speak with staff on-site.
Other business benefits
Providing employee health insurance helps your employees access high-quality private healthcare and a range of support services. Business health insurance will never replace your obligation to appropriately risk assess their work and take reasonable care to keep them safe. However, it can be a valuable tool to minimise the risk of serious health issues and provide support to help your team reduce workplace stress.
Providing business health insurance also has many benefits for your company that go beyond your legal responsibility to your employees. It's a valued part of any employee benefits package that can give you an advantage over your competitors when recruiting new staff. Private health insurance gives your employees quick access to private healthcare, meaning they can recover and return to work quickly. This obviously benefits your business, particularly if you have a small team or a key employee falls ill. However, it also positively impacts your staff. A physical illness can worsen without prompt treatment, and a long absence from work can contribute to symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression.
However, it's vital that you're aware of the cost and taxation implications of providing employee health insurance before you choose a policy.
Health insurance helps you to become an employer of choice
Recruiting and retaining the best staff is vital to your business' success. Job seekers are increasingly looking for job opportunities and employers whose values align with their own. Offering a competitive salary and giving your staff the ability to create a good work-life balance through annual leave and flexible working is essential.
However, with 91% of Gen Z employees reporting workplace stress and 98% showing signs of burnout, benefits that support employee health and well-being are also vital. Offering health insurance as an employee benefit demonstrates a commitment to providing employees with a safe and healthy workplace beyond your legal responsibility to keep them safe.
Providing private health insurance and running health and wellness initiatives at work also speaks to a company culture which cares about its employees. All these elements can help to make you an employer of choice by building a positive brand and reputation and increasing the likelihood that current employees will recommend you to their peers.
Employee retention and engagement
An excellent employee benefits package helps you to become an employer of choice when recruiting new staff. However, it can also help you to retain existing employees. Health insurance enables you to implement strategies crucial to improving employee retention and engagement. Your workplace wellness initiatives can support employees to achieve their health goals and build positive relationships in the workplace.
Healthy employees are less likely to take time off work because of ill health, but they'll also likely be more engaged whilst at work. Evidence suggests that workplace wellness initiatives improve employee engagement and productivity. You can create such initiatives without providing health insurance to your team. However, corporate health insurance provides tools to make the process easier by providing employee health data and support to create appropriate programs.
Health insurance taxation
Employee health insurance has tax implications for your business and employees. The following is intended to provide an introduction to the main principles but should not be taken as tax advice. It's essential you speak with your accountant or financial advisor for advice tailored to your circumstances before you decide to invest in health insurance.
Health insurance premiums are an allowable business expense for corporation tax purposes, meaning you can claim corporation tax relief on the total cost of your premiums. That means you can reduce your total corporation tax bill. This won't apply if you operate a voluntary scheme where employees pay the premiums.
Paying premiums also affects the way you pay employers' National Insurance contributions. If you arrange the insurance and pay the premium, you'll need to pay Class 1A contributions based on the value of the benefit (which is the same as the premium cost). If your employee arranges the insurance, but you pay the premium, or if they pay it and claim it back, you'll need to add the premium cost to their earnings and put it through the payroll for National Insurance contributions to be deducted.
There can also be income tax implications for your employees. If employees pay premiums through a voluntary scheme or via salary sacrifice, there won't be any additional tax to pay. However, if you pay the premiums, HMRC will treat health insurance as a benefit-in-kind, so they'll need to pay tax on the value of the benefit. It's essential that you explain this clearly to your employees when they join the scheme so they can seek tax advice if necessary.
Getting professional advice
Globacare is a specialist insurance broker offering tailored advice to our clients. We work with you to understand your business needs and budget to help you find the right business health insurance for your team. We'll also support you when it's time to renew your policy to ensure you still have the best possible coverage.
Get in touch with us today for a comparison quote.