Half of workers ‘think employers should top up NHS services’

Nearly half of UK workers think their employers should offer them health services as a top-up to the NHS, a new study has found.

PMI Health Group director Mike Blake The research, from Willis Towers Watson, found 48 per cent of Britons think employers should offer health services, with the proportion taking this view rising to 58 per cent amongst 18 to 34-year-olds. Amongst those aged over 35, the proportion was 42 per cent.

Willis Towers Watson says that while the government-led Public Health Responsibility Deal has encouraged employers to play a more active role in ensuring their employees lead healthy lives, just 49 per cent of workers say their employer has made provision to look after their health and wellbeing.

Older workers took a more negative view of their employer’s approach to their health and wellbeing, with just 31 per cent of 55 to 64-year-olds saying they thought their employer’s provision of health and wellbeing benefits was sufficient, compared to 57 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds, 59 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds and 39 per cent of 45 to 54-year-olds.

Willis Towers Watson Health & Benefits director Mike Blake says: “These results suggest a large number of workers are increasingly turning to their employer to fund health services that they feel may not be available to them within the public health system.

“Employers may view this as an opportunity to boost employee satisfaction and retention by attempting to plug any gaps in the provision of treatment. Official figures recently showed waiting lists for routine operations such as hip and knee surgery are at their highest for a decade, so businesses can position themselves as responsible employers by offering benefits that can accelerate access to care and support healthier lifestyles.

“An effective strategy may see healthcare benefits and wellbeing initiatives working alongside one another to improve overall health, helping to ease any uncertainty around public health services. Healthcare benefits ‘top up’ provision to help ensure any current health issues are covered, while wellness schemes help forge a more proactive approach that could reduce the need for treatment altogether in the future.

“The figures may not actually reflect a difference in provision but instead a difference in perception among older workers that could result from a failure to effectively communicate benefit options.

“Whatever the reason, an ageing workforce means employers are under greater pressure than ever to engage with an older demographic and tailor benefits to address the specific challenges they face. For example, eldercare benefits are designed to support employees caring for an elderly relative – a situation that will become more prevalent the older people get – but, more generally, strong two-way communication is needed to identify need and effectively engage with staff.”