Why is employee health and well-being important?

A healthy team is a productive one, so it makes sense to support employees' health and well-being. Supporting employee health reduces sickness absence, increases productivity, and leads to greater employee engagement and retention.

The Office for National Statistics reported a record high in sickness absence days during 2022, with 185.6 working days lost, an average of 5.7 days per worker.

Well-being benefits can help your business get the most out of your current employees and can also impact recruitment. A Mind survey found that 60% of employees would be more likely to recommend their employer to other job seekers if they prioritised mental well-being.

Here's how health insurance can help you support employees' health.

How health insurance works

You can provide employee health insurance by buying a group policy which covers all your employees. Group health insurance is typically cheaper per head than an individual policy as it lets your insurer spread their claims risk over more people.

Getting a comparison quote from various insurance providers is a good idea, as coverage and premiums can vary widely. Each provider has a different approach to coverage, letting you choose a policy that meets your needs. You can also tailor your coverage to meet your needs and budget.

Every policy offers core coverage and optional extras. Business health insurance typically provides additional services to help you manage your workforce's healthcare needs. Once you've chosen your policy and tailored it to your requirements, your employees are covered as soon as you start paying the premium.

Core coverage

Each health insurance policy provides core coverage to every customer. This typically includes in-patient and day-patient treatment, cancer care, limited out-patient coverage and some mental health support.

Employees can also access services, including virtual GP appointments, telephone helplines and the insurer's member discount scheme. Some providers also include access to a health cash plan for business customers. Cash plans pay cashback on your employee's routine healthcare expenses, such as private physiotherapy or dental check-ups, if your insurance doesn't cover them.

Core coverage varies between insurers, so always check the small print.

Optional extras

You can tailor your employee health insurance by adding optional extras to your policy. Your premium will increase based on the number of additional services you add. Most providers offer extended out-patient coverage and mental health support as additional benefits. You can also increase the range of physical therapies on offer, such as physiotherapy and osteopathy, and add alternative treatments like acupuncture and reiki.

Each health insurance policy includes a standard list of hospitals and treatment centres where your employees can access care. If you're based in central London or another major city and want to ensure your employees can access care locally, you'll likely need to add an extended hospital list. These cover healthcare in areas where medical costs are higher.

Business support services

Business health insurance provides well-being benefits that reflect the demands of managing a team. We'll discuss the services in more detail; however, you can expect to find a portal to help onboard new starters, remove leavers, and various resources designed to improve employee health.

Insurers typically offer additional services you can access at an extra cost, such as workplace vaccination schemes or vouchers and occupational health support. Some services require a minimum number of employees, so they vary depending on your company's size.

What health and wellness services can health insurance offer?

Health insurance can provide a range of employee health and well-being benefits. You'll find some within your chosen policy's core coverage, while others vary depending on the number of employees your business has and the optional extras you choose.

Here's our round-up of the health and wellness services your health insurance can provide.

Quick access to treatment

NHS waiting lists continue to make headlines. Your employees will receive high-quality healthcare whether they use the NHS or receive private treatment. However, health insurance typically offers faster access to care, meaning employees can recover and return to work more quickly if they need time off.

Private hospitals typically have hotel-style facilities with private rooms, ensuite bathrooms and chef-prepared meals so patients can rest and recover in a peaceful environment.

Other services, such as telephone helplines and digital GP appointments, enable your staff to seek medical advice at a time that suits them.

Mental health support

Awareness of mental health issues and the importance of good quality mental health support is increasing. It's estimated that 12.7% of all sickness absences in the UK relate to mental health problems.

Mental health problems can result from physical illnesses but can also cause physical symptoms such as headaches, insomnia and stomach problems. These challenges can impact employee health, resulting in sickness absence and reduced productivity. Mental health problems can stem from workplace stress, challenges in employees' lives outside work, and physical or mental illness.

Employee health insurance provides several types of mental health assistance depending on your chosen policy and how you tailor your coverage. It offers various tools, allowing employees to seek appropriate support when needed.

Direct access to counselling

Basic health insurance policies include direct access to counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) without a GP referral. This enables your staff to make an appointment without needing to see an NHS or virtual GP first, allowing them to access treatment quickly.

However, policies typically only cover 8-10 sessions per year at this level. This is ideal for relatively straightforward issues that require short-term support. In some cases, early intervention can prevent an escalation that results in a mental health crisis while an individual waits for NHS counselling. However, it doesn't provide a long-term solution for employees needing more sessions.

Extended mental health coverage

Extended mental health coverage provides access to a broader range of support and treatments. When you buy business health insurance, your policy documents specify how many treatment sessions it covers or an annual financial limit on each type of treatment.

Extended coverage increases the number of counselling or CBT sessions an employee can have and includes higher financial limits. This broadens the range of available treatments and can include private in-patient psychiatric care if needed. Policy limits vary; some offer unlimited coverage, but many providers let you tailor the applicable financial limits to suit your budget.

Extending your coverage is a good idea if you want to provide the highest possible level of mental well-being support. It can be particularly beneficial if you work in a high-stress profession or environment.

Telephone helplines

Most health insurers run telephone helplines staffed by nurses for general medical queries. Helplines don't offer counselling or formal treatment but can help signpost your staff to the proper support for their needs. Advisors can explain what the health insurance policy provides or advise callers to contact a third-party provider, such as a counselling service or charity.

Many health insurance policies include access to self-help articles online or apps to help people manage their mental well-being, meaning advisors can recommend suitable resources if needed.

Bupa operates a family mental health line that parents can call for advice on their children's mental and emotional health.

An Employee Assistance Programme

An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) provides various forms of assistance. EAPs often focus on mental health but can also promote good financial health by offering financial advice and resources. Some EAPs also provide legal guidance, meaning the service can help relieve financial and legal stress. While your business pays for the EAP, calls and counselling sessions are confidential, giving staff the confidence to speak without worrying about the impact on their career.

If an EAP provides counselling sessions, these are typically limited in the same way as basic health insurance coverage.

24/7 virtual GP appointments

We've mentioned how a virtual GP service can help employees access medical advice around their other commitments. Every health insurer has a version; employees can typically book appointments online or via an app. Most appointments are by video call, but most also offer telephone appointments.

Appointments are available 24/7, so your team can seek advice or reassurance whenever needed. Virtual GP services don't usually let you choose which doctor you want to see, so there's no real continuity of care. However, it's excellent for straightforward issues that don't need long-term management. Some providers also offer face-to-face appointments, although your employees may need to pay a fee. They're often only available in London.

Telephone helplines

We've mentioned how telephone helplines can help support your employees' mental health, but they can offer other advice too. Helplines are usually staffed by nurses, but some provide access to pharmacists, midwives and mental health specialists.

Helpline staff can't provide treatment, issue prescriptions or provide referrals. However, they can answer questions and recommend other sources of support. Specialist staff can advise on a specific issue, such as cancer treatment or pregnancy. Nurses can also answer questions about medical procedures to ease any worries about a new diagnosis or upcoming treatment.

Some helplines operate 24/7, while others have limited but extensive opening hours.

Online self-help resources

Most employee health insurance providers have a knowledge bank of resources that lets employees access health information when needed. These typically include articles on various topics, including ways to improve general health, alleviate symptoms, or understand more about common physical or mental health problems. Some providers provide information in videos or podcasts. There are often calculators, such as a BMI calculator, that help employees assess their current health.

While most providers offer health and wellness resources that members and non-members can access, other tools may be available depending on your chosen provider. For example, Vitality and AXA provide members access to the Peppy app, which provides support with fertility, pregnancy, menopause, and new parenthood.

Optical and dental coverage

Optical and dental coverage is available as an optional extra on your employee health insurance. It can help you comply with your duty to provide employees using display screens with regular eye tests. Unless your employees qualify for free dental care, they're likely already paying for treatment, so including dental coverage can save them money and ease their financial stress.

Some providers only offer dental coverage, and others add hearing coverage, so it's worth comparing policies to see which option best suits your employee's health needs.

Regular eye tests and dental check-ups can act as early warning systems for other health issues, such as diabetes or some forms of cancer, meaning your investment could have wider well-being benefits.

Perks and discounts

Every health insurance provider offers perks and discounts to its members. The rewards have various well-being benefits, including perks related to physical and mental well-being and incentives that help members save money on treats or things they usually buy. Providers partner with third-party providers for discounts on their products and services.

Each scheme differs. Most include perks for all members, and employees can earn more incentives by hitting their health targets. Here are a few ways discount schemes can support employee health.

Discounted gym memberships

Discounted gym memberships help employees increase their physical activity levels. Most providers partner with more than one health club or offer multi-gym passes so employees can find a suitable gym.

Schemes typically also include memberships at health clubs such as Nuffield Health, which have a range of facilities. If employees are not gym fans, they can use their discounted gym membership to use the pool or classes.

Fitness-tracking technology

Fitness-tracking technology has become more widely used in recent years. Smartwatches allow your employees to track their health by providing data on the number of steps they walk each day, their heart rate, sleep and various other health metrics. Most fitness trackers sync with an app on your phone, allowing employees to see how they're performing against their goals at a glance and analyse trends over time if they want to.

Some insurers partner with one provider while others offer discounts with several to give your employees more choice.

Health improvement apps and services

Most business health insurance policies include employee health assessments to help your team set and achieve health goals. The membership scheme gives them access to discounted tools and services that can help. For example, employees can buy a stop-smoking program, a Weight Watchers membership, or a Headspace app membership to improve their mental well-being. Some insurers offer discounts on healthy food, such as fresh vegetable deliveries or recipe boxes.

If your employees want to invest in a more in-depth health assessment than your coverage offers, they can get a discount. Bupa offers a 10% discount on their health assessments, while Vitality provides discounts on Bluecrest health assessments and membership points for customers who book one of their health checks.

Leisure discounts

Taking breaks is vital for employee health, and membership programmes provide discounts on various leisure activities. Generally, employees earn these rewards by accumulating activity points. Some perks, such as takeaway coffees, on-demand movies, or cinema tickets, are free, while others provide discounts.

For example, we've seen discounts on spa days, memberships providing access to castles and stately homes, and hotel bookings. These rewards could help your employees make the most of their leisure time and improve their health.

Menopause support

Health insurance doesn't cover treatment for menopause or perimenopause, as policies only cover acute conditions that can be cured. Menopause is a natural biological process, and treatments such as HRT typically continue long-term, so they aren't included in health coverage.

Menopause can significantly impact an employee's well-being and productivity at work, with symptoms such as brain fog, hot flushes and difficulty sleeping. Creating health and wellness programs that support employees through menopause can improve employee engagement and performance.

Health insurance can provide some treatment, such as access to tests via out-patient coverage. Virtual GP services, helplines and online resources can offer information and guidance. As we've mentioned, the Peppy app includes menopause support. Bupa also offers a menopause plan package which provides consultations and a personalised care plan at an additional cost.

Cancer support

Most health insurance policies include cancer care as standard. The services your employees can access vary depending on your chosen policy and provider. While most insurers include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy as standard, other services may only be available as part of optional extended coverage. Other providers offer a broader range of treatments as part of their core coverage. For example, cutting-edge drugs and treatments such as nano-knife technology or stem cell therapy are available as standard with some providers but only with enhanced coverage with others. Including out-patient coverage as part of your policy lets employees book private consultant appointments and have tests and scans without waiting for an NHS diagnosis.

Some insurers operate treatment centres that specialise in particular forms of cancer, such as breast cancer. These centres provide treatment from specialist consultants and nurses who work with cancer patients regularly and invest to keep their knowledge on the latest treatments up to date.

Various services can support employee wellness during cancer treatment. These can include advice on wigs to boost self-esteem after cancer-related hair loss. Others focus on mental well-being with counselling or a specialist telephone helpline that can reassure patients on side effects. Telephone support can also provide practical solutions and enable patients to stay well during treatment. For example, specialist nurses can advise on ways to alleviate side effects. Many policies also include nutrition support.

Employee health assessments

Employee health screenings and assessments give your team members a snapshot of their overall health and let them identify areas for improvement. Most providers offer a basic health assessment and support to enable workers to set goals and develop healthy habits.

You'll typically find a standard health assessment covering things like height and weight, blood pressure, mobility, blood sugar and waist-to-height ratio. However, depending on your chosen provider, you can opt for an enhanced assessment. These can be worthwhile if your work requires a high fitness level or carries particular health risks. Alternatively, some providers let employees pay a discounted price for enhanced health assessments, meaning they can tailor their checks to any health concerns or hobbies outside work.

Health management data

Employee health assessments benefit your business as they can provide valuable data and insights into common health issues. This can help you design employee wellness programs that improve employee health.

You'll usually need to sign up a minimum number of employees for your health and wellness program to access health data. Some policies automatically include employee health assessments, but you'll still need to encourage employees to participate and emphasise the benefits for their well-being.

If the minimum number of employees participates, your insurer can provide anonymised data showing common health trends and issues so you can decide the focus of your wellness programs.

Support to create health and wellness programs

While most employee health insurance will provide data allowing you to make decisions about your health and wellness programs, some go a step further. Depending on your chosen policy and provider, you can seek advice about the types of health and wellness programs that can bring about change.

This type of support may come at an additional cost. However, it can offer valuable benefits by giving you the tools to analyse employee data and designing wellness programs with tangible benefits.

Get in touch

At Globacare, we provide our clients with tailored advice to help them choose the best health insurance for their employees. If you'd like to learn more about the health and well-being services private medical insurance can offer your employees, please get in touch with us to discuss your needs.

Oliver Whillock

Oliver Whillock

Oliver has over 8 years of experience in the industry, specialising in private health, SME and Group health insurance.

Frequently asked questions

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