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Has COVID-19 improved employees’ perceived value of health insurance?

Tuesday February 9, 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted many workers to wonder if their company is doing enough to safeguard their health. Some measures aim to prevent people getting ill in the first place, such as masks and hand sanitiser, as well as wellbeing initiatives to improve overall resilience. Other measures focus on support if staff do fall ill, like medical insurance or access to online GP services.

However, some companies face a dilemma: they want to keep workers safe and productive, but a limited benefits budget means they are unable to provide cover for ill-health. For these employers, the best solution may be to partner with an insurer who can provide workers with easy to access cost-effective, individual policies. Employees too value the chance to safeguard themselves from the impact of ill health on their earnings.

Protecting our policyholders

In the past 12 months we have seen sustained interest in our protection plans. Workers are very aware of Covid-19 and the impact on their household finances if they were forced to spend long periods in hospital or convalescing. Another tragic impact of Covid-19 is the increase in deaths among people of working age who would normally expect to live for many more years.

Furthermore, many of our policyholders are key workers who don’t have the option to work from home and may need to commute via public transport; and are therefore at greater risk of exposure to the virus. In these circumstances, workers see the financial value of protection for themselves and their families, as well as providing peace of mind in uncertain times.

The impact on recruitment and retention  

From a health and safety perspective, staff require Covid-safe working conditions and may look elsewhere for a job if they feel their employer is prioritising profit at the expense of their safety. However, we’ve also seen increased expectations around employee wellbeing in general. A Willis Towers Watson survey from May 2020 found that two-fifths (42%) of companies have made, or are planning to make, changes to their employee benefit programmes as a result of the pandemic and the impact it has had on working life.

The conversation on employee wellbeing has shifted from a ‘nice-to-have’ model to become an essential part of any employee offer. As well as benefits to help staff maintain their health, such as OnDemand GP and Employee Assistance Programmes, many employers now offer preventative wellbeing measures that place emphasis on exercise, sleep, healthy food and stress reduction, which have a significant impact on preventing ill-health.

Organisations are increasingly recognising that the benefits of wellbeing provisions may extend beyond simple return on investment. Costs linked to absenteeism, presenteeism and employee turnover are areas of legitimate business concern, but it’s also worth considering the less tangible benefits. By demonstrating that you care about workers’ health, especially outside work hours, you become more attractive as an employer to those looking for new opportunities and increase engagement among existing employees. 

Even before the pandemic, workers needed support to help protect their health. In the current climate, employers should think about their current provision and if it can be optimised to support a resilient and productive workforce.

Article published in REBA on 9th February 2021

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