Inspire Autumn 2019

The latest health and wellbeing news from Towergate Health & Protection

Welcome to the latest edition of Inspire, our quarterly newsletter, designed to keep you informed about the issues that could be relevant to your business.

In this edition we look at the importance of communicating your employee benefit schemes to your teams. Please visit us at stand C33 at Employee Benefit Live 2019 in London (October 1 – 2) if you’d like to talk about employee benefits with one of our advisers.

You can also read about how to protect your business if one of the owners passes away; how important it is to know your blood pressure; and a report on rising deaths from heart and circulatory disease.

The importance of good communication of employee benefit schemes

With more and more companies offering employee benefit schemes, including private medical insurance and other wellbeing programmes, it’s more important than ever that companies also build in a plan to communicate these benefits effectively to people.

Research shows that failing to tell employees about all the healthcare schemes they are entitled to can lead to an increase in sickness absence and turnover, costing a company with 1,000 employees an average of £470,000 annually – that’s a UK-wide cost of £2.7 billion per year1.


The study also revealed that almost two thirds of companies have invested money in a wide range of benefits for employees but without communication to back up the scheme – this is no better than companies who offer no benefits at all1. If people don’t know what benefits they have, they can’t access or use them when they need to.

One of the issues can be a lack of trust between an employer and its workers – with two thirds of employees not trusting messages about benefits which come direct from the top level – they are more likely to believe communication from their direct team supervisors.

Why communication is needed

With a report from Money Talks proving that levels of employee turnover and sickness are the same in companies without employee benefits as those who have them but don’t communicate about them – clearly communication is needed1

Improve take-up of benefits

The most obvious benefit of effective communication about health and wellbeing schemes offered at work is that more people will actually take up the offers and make use of the plans.

Improved take-up means people will be using the healthcare options to get faster treatment when they need to – which can help to reduce sickness absence – so it’s a bonus for both the employees and the employer.

Clarify the value of benefits to employees

Many people simply don’t realise the value of the schemes offered by their work so making it clear how much benefit schemes are actually worth and what they can claim for is a really important aspect of the communication plan.

People need to understand exactly what they are being offered – as this can help not just with understanding but also with aspects of employee engagement and retention if they fully appreciate the benefits available.

Helps to make staff feel valued

Once people understand the value of their employee benefits and exactly what they can claim for and when, it can help them to feel more valued by their employer. Aspects such as wellbeing programmes which help people to take action to improve their health before they develop problems, can go a long way to making people feel more valued – but they need to know about them for this to happen.

People who feel valued are more likely to stay so this aspect of communication can help with employee retention and potentially enhance recruitment processes for new workers as well.

Reduce absence levels

When people understand the health benefits they can claim, they are more likely to seek private treatment to get an appointment with a doctor more quickly – this means they can benefit from a private service and get back to work rather than having to take a lengthy period of absence while waiting to get seen.

Using good communication to explain to employees exactly what they can claim for and which treatments are covered within the policy can go a long way to reducing sickness absence levels.

Consequences of poor communication

As you can see, having a benefits scheme and communicating it well can bring only positive changes both for employees and the employer. On the other hand, failing to communicate will result in a poor take-up, meaning the employer will be paying out money for a benefits scheme that nobody uses.

Ways to improve communication

So having seen what a huge difference communicating about your health benefits can make both to the company and to the people involved, what can you do to improve your benefits communication?

It’s important to provide somewhere that employees can go to, to find out all about their benefits, such as a specific online portal. That way they can spend time looking through all of the policy information and can have all the details they need all in one place.

Making it easy to access and find all of the relevant information will make it much easier for them to engage with the material. As well as having it all in one place, the information should be simple and easy to understand.

Just uploading a 20-page detailed health insurance policy for them to read won’t help – you need to create bespoke communication which explains the benefits simply so people can read, digest and understand the information quickly when they need it the most.

The information also needs to be targeted to suit different members – there is no one-size fits all when it comes to effective communication so you might need to create a suite of communication materials.

Communication also needs to be delivered on a regular basis – would you remember the details of a health policy you read about five months ago, or a year ago? Benefits need to be communicated about regularly – perhaps via a newsletter or a benefits update email to everyone. 

Investing in employee benefits for your team can help to increase engagement, retention and help recruitment, while also driving down sickness absence – but failing to communicate about them takes away all of that advantage.

If you are taking the trouble to invest in benefits, then it’s important to have a communication strategy in place to back them up and to ensure your people are fully aware of all their options.

References

1. https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/234061/CR00376_Ebook_WorkplaceComms_07.17.pdf 

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What would happen to your business if one of the owners passes away?

The death of your business partner or main shareholder isn’t something you want to think about, however, from a business perspective, it’s important to understand the implications and the risks if the worst should happen.

Without protection, when a shareholder dies, the shares will automatically pass to their family. This means a family member becomes involved with a business they know nothing about and you can end up with a very reluctant shareholder.


Or you might have a family member who wants to change how the business is run, or sell their shares to one of your competitors. You could lose control of the company you worked so hard to create.

Recognising the risk

As a business owner it’s important to recognise this very real risk to your company. It’s vital you take action to ensure you retain control of your company after your business partner dies - one way to do this is to buy their shares.

If you don’t have the money required, it can end up becoming very complicated – which is where shareholder protection insurance comes in. This cover will provide you with a lump sum to buy the shares owned by your former partner.

Shareholder protection

As well as protecting the business, this cover also makes sure the family of the deceased partner receives a financial benefit. That way, you retain your company and the family is also supported, without being lumbered with shares they might not want.

Shareholder protection also supports business owners who might need to buy shares from a shareholder who is diagnosed with a critical or terminal illness. It provides the money to buy the shares if the other shareholder has to step down.

Business continuity and the need for succession planning

Shareholder protection cover is just one way to help protect your business against a key person becoming ill or passing away. But as the business owner, how would the company survive if something happened to you?

Are there business loans guaranteed by you? Are you the one who runs the business on a day-to-day basis? Succession planning means ensuring your company could continue to run, if you or other key staff were unable to work. Here is a quick guide to some of the cover you might consider:

Business loan protection - a life or critical illness insurance which helps to pay off business debts if the owner dies or is seriously ill.

Key person protection - a life or critical illness insurance which pays out to help find replacement staff and cover lost profit streams if a key member of staff dies or is seriously ill.

Relevant life plans - an individual life insurance policy that company directors and owners can buy through their business if they are classed as an employee.

Protecting business premises against fire and break-ins seems totally natural but how often do you think about the most important asset of all – you and your staff? Business protection, and shareholder protection in particular, can help keep your business going if the worst should happen.

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The importance of knowing your numbers

When was the last time you had your blood pressure tested? Most of us take it for granted that our blood pressure is fine but the problem with that is high blood pressure or other conditions come with no symptoms at all. So, unless you know your numbers, you could be putting yourself at risk.

High blood pressure can cause a stroke or heart attack but has no symptoms so it’s always good to get your blood pressure checked regularly and because of this 9 – 15 September has been declared as Know Your Numbers! week.


Know your Numbers! Week is the UK's biggest blood pressure testing week and has been running since 2001, helping more than 1.5 million people to check their blood pressure by offering free blood pressure checks across the country through hundreds of pressure stations placed in public places. The theme this year is to live well for longer by knowing your numbers.

The campaign pressure stations are placed across the UK in community settings including workplaces, hospitals, supermarkets, leisure centres, shopping centres and doctor surgeries, so everyone should have access.

You can also get your blood pressure checked at your local pharmacy, your GP or you can buy monitors to use yourself at home as well. If you find your blood pressure is high you need to speak to your GP as soon as possible.

What are the dangers of undiagnosed high blood pressure?

It is estimated that around one in three adults has high blood pressure in the UK and more than 5 million people don’t know they have it.

High blood pressure is known as the silent killer because it has no symptoms, but it can cause strokes, heart disease and heart attacks. This makes it the biggest cause of early death and disability in the UK.

Every year around 125,000 people in the UK suffer a stroke or a heart attack connected with high blood pressure. These are preventable if the condition is diagnosed and treated but you need to know your numbers to know you need treating.

Those who have undiagnosed high blood pressure are three times more likely to have a stroke or heart disease and are twice as likely to die from these conditions as someone with normal blood pressure.

So, what exactly is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is simply the pressure of your blood flowing through your arteries. It’s the pressure of the blood pushing against your artery walls. If that pressure is too high, the artery wall muscles have to push back to maintain their shape and this makes your artery walls thicker. The thicker your arteries are, the harder it is for the blood to flow, which then increases your blood pressure even more1.

The risk is that all the extra pressure can make a weaker artery burst or get blocked. If this is left untreated over a period of time it can damage your heart or brain and increase the risk of stroke and heart attack. It can also cause issues with your kidneys, eyes and potentially dementia.

The good news is that once you know you have it, it can be treated and you can lower the risk to yourself – that’s why it’s so important to know your own numbers and to seek medical help if they are on the high side.

How do I know if my blood pressure is high?

The only way to know if your blood pressure is normal, high or possibly low, is to measure it and look at the results. It’s good to measure several times as it can vary and if you are stressed about having it measured, the results might go up.

Blood pressure measurements are recorded with two numbers, for example, 120 over 80. The first number, or 120, is called the systolic pressure. This is the pressure at which your heart is pushing blood around your body. The lower number is called diastolic pressure, and this is the pressure level when your heart is relaxed.

The blood pressure range usually covers between 90 to 250 for the top or systolic number and 60 to 140 for the bottom or diastolic number.

A healthy blood pressure level is 120/80 or less, and you can take lifestyle measures to lower your blood pressure naturally, such as eating better and getting more exercise.

140/90 is the level used to diagnose high blood pressure. If you have this level of reading consistently your blood pressure will need to be lowered and you need to seek medical advice straight away so you can get treatment which will reduce your risk.

So now you know the risks of high blood pressure, what health issues it could cause, and that there are many free and easy ways to check your own numbers, you don’t need to wait for Know Your Numbers Week to do it, why not get checked out today for your own peace of mind?  

References

1. http://www.bloodpressureuk.org/BloodPressureandyou/Yourbody/Arteries 

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Worrying rise in deaths from heart and circulatory disease among the under 75s

New health statistics released have revealed a worrying rise in the number of people who are dying from heart or circulatory diseases, before they are 75. It is the first time in fifty years that this number has seen an increase.

The national health statistics showed there has been an increase in deaths since 2014 when there were 41,042 deaths from these conditions, compared with 42,384 deaths under the age of 75 in 2017 (the latest figures).


This increase has concerned the British Heart Foundation which has set targets in the UK to halve premature death and disability from stroke, and to increase heart attack survival to 90% by 2030.  

The upward trend in deaths from largely preventable conditions could demonstrate an increase in complacency among the general population. Particularly as there was also in increase in deaths from circulatory and heart diseases in the under 65s as well.

In 2017 there were 18,668 deaths under the age of 65, which is a 4% increase compared with 17,982 in 2012 and there had actually been a 19% decline in the numbers in the five years before that. It is a very worrying reversal. 

What has led to this increase in deaths?

There are a number of factors which have led to this unexpected increase, according to the British Heart Foundation charity. One of the issues is the rate of improvement in death rates per 100,000 people has slowed down.

This slowing down of the improvement rate, when combined with the growing numbers of older people in the overall population both add to the issue. It means a larger proportion of people are now dying from heart and circulatory conditions, adding to the strain on the NHS.

It is a worrying reversal in numbers, particularly when all the campaigning for healthy hearts and improvements in treatments, had seen the death rates halve since the 1960s, so to see a rise after 50 years is a sign that things need to change in our society.

High blood pressure and diabetes are both conditions which have been blamed for this rise in deaths from circulatory and heart diseases as they both increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The British Heart Foundation has pledged to invest £1 billion into research for heart and circulatory diseases to help more people to live and to improve treatments which are available. But we all have a duty to take responsibility for our health.

With 5 million adults suffering from undiagnosed high blood pressure it’s time we all take action and make sure our family members are checked out as once diagnosed it is a treatable condition and if caught in time can help to go some way to preventing these premature deaths.

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Latest news from the insurers

Did you see the latest updates from the insurers?

Here's the latest from Aviva, AXA PPP, Bupa, Healix Health Services, Simplyhealth, Unum and Vitality.
 


Aviva

16 July 2019: Over-45s twice as likely to experience long-term sickness absence in the UK workplace
New UK government figures report the dramatic increase in the likelihood of long-term sickness absence when we age (i.e. an employment absence of four weeks of more).

30 July 2019: Millions of UK renters exposed to financial risks
A growing number of UK households could be putting their lifestyles and possessions at risk because they aren’t insured for unexpected events. A study from Aviva finds that the vast majority of renting households do not have protection insurance – life insurance, critical illness cover or income protection.

AXA PPP

21 june 2019: British business burnout - companies fail to prioritise health and wellbeing
Small businesses employ more than 16 million people and make up half of the UK’s economy, yet new research from leading healthcare brand, AXA PPP healthcare, has found eight out of ten SME business leaders don’t have a health and wellbeing strategy in place.

Bupa

18 July 2019: Kids’ mental health risk as they sign up for social aged 12
The average child now starts their life on social media at age 12 but a new study shows that signing up early increases the chances of suffering from mental ill-health.

5 August 2019: Dentist creates app to help improve oral health education
A lack of awareness of mental health conditions among older people is leading a significant proportion of baby boomers to neglect their wellbeing.

Vitality

July: Over 80 UK companies commit to getting their employees 20% more active
Representatives from UK companies of all shapes and sizes made a public commitment yesterday – supported by Vitality and its Performance Champions (former professional athletes) – to get their employees 20% more active. 

July: VitalityHealth partners with Doctify
VitalityHealth has announced a partnership with Doctify, the UK’s leading independent online review and booking platform for medical consultants.

Best of the rest

11 June 2019: What employees want: a recruiter’s view
The phrase ‘employee benefits’ has grown to have all kinds of meanings – from life insurance to perks like free tea and coffee in the office. But which benefits are candidates talking to recruiters about?

11 June 2019: Medicash acquires health and wellbeing specialists Health@Work
Liverpool based health insurer Medicash has announced that it recently acquired Health@Work Consultancy Services for an undisclosed sum.  

30 July 2019: Your medical repatriation options explained
Moving from one hospital to another during a medical crisis can present many challenges and deciding the right medical repatriation option depends on the medical prognosis as well as the quality of care available.

7 August 2019: England Rugby announce new partnership with Simplyhealth
England Rugby has today announced a new five-year partnership with Simplyhealth to become the trusted healthcare partner and the official lead partner for the RugbySafe programme.

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