Private medical insurance becomes most important employee benefit

Private medical insurance benefit Private medical insurance (PMI) has become the most important perk that employees look for in their benefits package, according to new research by Zest.

The employee benefits technology platform’s findings highlight growing challenges in the UK around access to healthcare, as more people explore private provision as opposed to solely relying on public healthcare, due to growing waiting lists.

The research found that one-third (32%) of employees rank PMI ahead of other benefits, such as increased pension contributions (30%), high street discounts (21%) and a company car (17%). They also ranked PMI ahead of benefits that could help them with the cost-of-living crisis, such as employer support for home energy costs (25%) and workplace savings schemes (21%).

Despite this, only 14% of employees said their employer provides PMI as a benefit, and of those who do have access through work, 10% had needed to use it in the last year. The demand for PMI is higher among female employees compared to males (33% vs 29%), as well as those aged 55 and above (44%).

In the past year, there has been an 8% increase in eligible employees using their PMI, but only a 1.5% increase in overall eligibility in the same period.

Matt Russell, CEO at Zest, said: “Over the last year we’ve seen the UK’s National Health Service face some of its toughest challenges ever, from strike action over pay to record waiting times for routine treatment.

“It’s no surprise that more people are considering private healthcare, but with the significant cost that accompanies this, many are now putting medical insurance at the top of their list for benefits they want to see from their employer. Employers need to take note of this demand and look at how they can adapt their benefits offer to meet the current needs of employees, if they are to attract and retain talent.”