· 2 min read · Features

Strategic Benefits: strengthening the employer-employee relationship


Richard Branson once said: “We developed our business ideas in the belief our first priority should be the people who work for the companies. If staff are motivated, then customers will be happy and shareholders benefit through the company’s success.”

With a multi-billion pound empire behind him, it is difficult to argue against Branson. And in an economic climate that continues to place a financial strain on employers, his comments become even more pertinent.

The health and wellbeing of employees is crucial to the success of any business. According to the CBI's Absence and Workplace Health Survey 2011:

  • The average cost for each absent employee in 2010 was £760 a year
  • The direct costs of absence alone amounted to over £17 billion across the UK economy in 2010
  • Three-quarters of employers reported that non-work-related ill-health had an adverse impact on staff productivity levels

Interestingly, 74% of employers also said they consider improving employee wellbeing to be a priority over the next year. It is not surprising - by implementing a comprehensive employee benefits programme, employers can begin to address key issues. These include: the health and wellbeing of staff, employee motivation and engagement, absence management, retention and reward and, importantly, duty of care.

So, what are the options? Recent research published by healthcare analyst Laing & Buisson has revealed that the company-paid health cash plan market is one of only two healthcare market segments to have grown during 2010. Its Health Cover UK Market Report shows that the total number of company-paid contributors rose by 11.2% in 2010 - growing by an estimated 93% between 2007 and 2010. Health Shield Friendly Society covers 20% of the company-paid market.

The continued popularity of health cash plans among employers is largely attributable to the range of benefits that fall within a scheme and its cost-effective nature. Health Shield, for instance, offers 100% cashback, up to chosen annual limits, for every benefit and at all levels.

Health cash plans are being rethought, with traditional benefits being supplemented by a whole range of fresh ideas.

Traditional benefits

Health cash plans provide benefits in the wider scope of everyday healthcare cover, including help with dental, optical and physiotherapy treatment costs.

Complementary therapies

A number of health cash plan schemes offer additional therapies that can help to improve a person's general wellbeing. These include visits to osteopaths and chiropractors, as well as acupuncture and homeopathy. There is a vast range of complementary treatments now available, including hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, reflexology, Reiki and Indian head massage. As well as treating physical ailments, complementary therapies can relieve stress.

Voluntary corporate options

In addition to working perfectly with existing private medical insurance (PMI), health cash plans are also a cost-effective solution for businesses. Companies that do not have the budget available to cover cash plan premiums have the option of voluntary corporate plans. This type of plan allows employers to provide a discounted benefits package for employees without incurring any cost for the business.

Additional family cover

Some companies offer cover for dependent children and partners.

With the right strategy, employee benefits can really strengthen the relationship between employer and employee by creating a better working environment for all. Providing tailored benefits can engage employees and improve motivation, which will in turn increase productivity and this will undoubtedly start to impact positively on the wider aims of an organisation.

Philip Wood (pictured) is executive director of sales and marketing at non-profit-making health cash plan provider, Health Shield, sponsor of HR magazine's Employee Benefits Supplement