Paula Hargaden: Healthcare trusts have key attractions

It was good to see the virtues of healthcare trusts highlighted in December’s issue (Buyer’s guide to healthcare trusts). For employers, the flexibility offered by a trust arrangement and the fact it can be tailored to the employer’s aims are key attractions.

A trust can be employer-branded and can cover treatment that might be prohibitively expensive to obtain from an insured solution. Alternatively, the healthcare benefit can be packaged to mimic an existing insured solution, for example to ease the transition from insured to trust-based arrangements, so that, from the employee’s perspective, there is little difference between the two.

A trust structure may appear daunting but, with the right advisers and appropriate governance, the work involved is minimised. Readers will want to be mindful of the legal context of the employment relationship, which can become blurred when the benefit feels like it is being brought in-house.

In particular, it might be preferable to ensure that the trust arrangement is identified as a separate entity from the employer in employee communications.

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Clear lines of communication can prevent expectations being set by the employer that might, in the worst-case scenario, turn into contractual obligations, which the trust may not be able to satisfy. It may also minimise the risk to employee relations that could arise where treatments are perceived to have been turned down by the employer.

Paula Hargaden is a senior associate at Burges Salmon