Employees care about their health

It’s important employers remember this like an alarm going off in their head. Employees care about their health. And they’re calling on employers to provide them with health benefits.

In a survey we conducted, we asked 1,005 UK SME employees to choose the top three employee benefits they would value most: 

  • 48% of employees voted private medical insurance in their top three most valued benefits
  • 37% voted for life insurance
  • 31% ranked critical illness in their top three

With private medical insurance voted the top most valued benefit, it’s obvious that people’s foremost priority is their health. This is supported by life insurance and critical illness also featuring in employees’ top three most valued benefits.

Arguably, the high demand for these products could be down to almost daily press coverage about the NHS, which paints a largely negative picture. And personal experiences matter too, just getting a GP appointment, often the first contact point a patient has with the NHS, can be difficult. It is therefore unsurprising that medical insurance is highly valued by employees.

While everyday lifestyle benefits such as cycle to work schemes and childcare vouchers still have a part to play in a benefits programme, our research shows that these benefits are not valued as highly. Employees clearly have a hierarchy of needs, and that’s directing them toward benefits which will keep them fit and healthy and provide long term financial security.

This shows that investing in health and protection benefits should be the foundation of an employee benefits package and employers shouldn’t forget the importance of these benefits when setting up their programme.

Income protection gets forgotten
Surprising, given that employees seem to care about their health, only 9% voted disability income protection as a top three most valued benefit. However, employers shouldn’t dismiss the product.

Disability income protection provides employees with long term financial support should they become injured or ill for a prolonged period. Given the preferences indicated in the survey, perhaps employees just don’t know what the product does.

We could blame it on the product’s name. We called it disability insurance in the survey, with the thinking that income protection could be misunderstood as an unemployment benefit rather than a sick pay benefit. Or, it could simply be down to awareness of what disability income protection provides.

The truth is, it is a valuable benefit for both employers and employees. The product provides replacement salary for employees with a long term illness, normally kicking in after the maximum Statuary Sick Pay (SSP) period of 28 weeks.

Without any income protection in place, the employer will run the risk of having to self-insure. A risk which 49% of SME employers take having said they would continue to pay some salary after the SSP period. Alternatively, they will end up leaving the employee with nothing but reducing state benefits.

Income protection products will also usually come with added value benefits such as an employee assistance programme and return to work support. Our income protection product, Sick Pay Complete, provides this and more.

Integrated with absence management software, the system provides us with automatic notification of an absence lasting four weeks, or earlier depending on the condition causing the absence. This allows us to provide support in the form of case management, tailored rehabilitation services and return to work guidance as soon as possible.

Taking into account the healthcare services and financial security these added value benefits provide, we would urge employers not to discount disability income protection when thinking about what benefits to implement for their people.

Given employees’ preference toward benefits such as private medical insurance, life insurance and critical illness, it’s possible to argue employees really should value the financial security and rehabilitation services that income protection provides. Perhaps the real challenge here is the current lack of awareness and understanding of income protection.

In a nutshell
Employees care about their health and they’re calling on employers to provide benefits that will help them financially support and take care of their wellbeing, despite the fact they’re not often the most engaging or exciting benefits.

Employers shouldn’t forget about these benefits, and when they think about putting together a benefits programme for their people, their first port of call should be a professional adviser to discuss healthcare and financial benefits.