19 March 2019

Top five misconceptions holding employees back from utilising health and wellbeing benefits

When asked what the most important things in life are, health is regularly one of the top answers. Yet when it comes to employee benefits that have been designed to look after health, there can sometimes be barriers to employers and employees in utilising them fully. Brett Hill, distribution director, breaks down the top five misconceptions when it comes to utilising healthcare benefits: 

1. It’s not confidential

A common misconception about healthcare benefits is that they aren’t confidential. Employees are worried that if they use a counselling service, via an employee assistance programme (EAP) for example, that information can be fed back to their employer and potentially used against them. But such services are completely confidential and it’s an important message for employers to communicate to staff. With 30% of staff disagreeing with the statement “I’d feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed*, having an outlet - independent from the employer, such as an EAP - is vital in ensuring employees feel fully supported.

2. It's just about quick treatment

Whilst shorter waiting times and cost-effective treatment is a big draw, healthcare benefits far surpass just these. Mental health, for example, is widely discussed at present – as our understanding of its complexities, and impact on the workplace deepen. Benefits such as mental health first-aid training really come into play here – helping managers to spot signs of mental ill-health, understand how they can best support an employee, and signpost them to more help if needed.

3. Only the top directors should have access

The news is awash with regular stories of fat cats, handsome pay offs and golden hellos for senior staff. Healthcare benefits can fall into this category, sometimes deemed as something only for those in the most senior roles. However, careers are longer than ever before, and health plays a central role in being able to maintain pace at work. It’s an important message for employers to send to employees, that everyone in the company is valued and provided with opportunities to look after their health. It’s within the company’s interest to ensure a greater take-up of benefits too, as greater discounts can be provided and premiums can be kept lower (on private medical insurance (PMI) for example where a larger spread of risk can help to lower cost).

4. They are only of use for the older generations

Statistically speaking, older people are more likely to suffer from ill-health than younger generations. So it is understandable why people think healthcare benefits are mainly aimed at older employees. However, studies** show the inextricable link between leading a healthy lifestyle and having a long and healthy life overall.

Health screenings, for example, help to maintain health and identify issues before they become a bigger problem. This helps employees to nip any health concerns in the bud. Advice following screenings needs to be tailored to the individual taking into account their age and lifestyle.

5. It's too expensive

Some employers think healthcare benefits are too expensive, for example preferring to offer bonuses instead when the business is doing well. But when considering research by Centre for Economics and Business Research that long-term absence of six months or more costs the UK £4.17 billion each year, can employers afford not to offer healthcare benefits? PMI, for instance, doesn’t just offer access to medical treatment, but it can also offer access to rehabilitation treatments, such as physiotherapy, helping employees to make healthier and quicker returns to work.

Cash plans can also provide a cost-effective way to help employees to stay on top of their health – providing cash back on regular healthcare treatments such as dentistry. This also helps to avoid long-term absences - as health is maintained, rather than more time off work required for more complex treatment and recovery.

Brett Hill concluded: ‘Health and wellbeing benefits have moved on considerably and new developments are being made all the time to make them relevant to today’s employers and their staff. It’s a shame when misconceptions hold employers back from considering them; in our experience they are some of the most valued benefits by employees and add much value to the company too.’

* https://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/mental-health-at-work/taking-care-of-your-staff

** https://edition.cnn.com/2018/04/30/health/life-expectancy-habits-study/index.html