Health cash plans-safeguarding employee and employer

As employee absence levels continue to rise, employers are becoming increasingly concerned with the impact it could have on the organisation, says David Castling, corporate sales manager at Engage Mutual

Many recognise the significance of helping employees manage the most common reasons for absence – musculoskeletal issues and minor illnesses. However, conditions which do not have obvious visible symptoms, such as mental health issues, are becoming increasingly prevalent.

In fact, research in 2012 identified that two-fifths (42 per cent) of organisations in the UK have reported an increase in mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression amongst staff, particularly within larger and public sector organisations.

The CIPD’s absence management report suggests that one of the most common cause of long-term absence is stress. This can arise when an employee feels the demands of their work outweigh their ability to balance the pressures placed on them.

Employers can in the first instance help to guard against this by ensuring employees are equipped to do their job effectively and provided with adequate help to manage their workloads.

A recent tribunal case, Croft Vets v Butcher, has put the onus further on employers to maintain staff wellbeing, ensuring workloads are manageable and that sufficient employee health care provisions are in place.

In the Croft Vets v Butcher case an employee was given increased responsibility following expansion of the company. The extra workload resulted in the employee suffering with work-related stress. The employer referred them to a clinical psychiatrist who recommended they receive six psychiatric sessions at a cost of £750.

However, the employer did not act on this advice and the employee resigned with claims of constructive unfair dismissal, and failure to make ‘reasonable adjustments’. The Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed, setting a precedent for employers across the country.

In effect, the decision means that businesses, no matter their size or type, may now be required to fund the cost of private medical treatment as part of a ‘reasonable adjustment’ to help a member of staff return to work if their condition is a direct result of their employment.

Although employers will not be required to pay for all forms of private medical treatment, it may still result in considerable outlay.

This emphasises the need for employers to ensure the relevant measures are in place to manage and maintain the wellbeing of staff while at work. Failure to do this may mean potential costs to businesses.

Providing employees with a way of managing their healthcare needs can help reduce absence levels while ensuring businesses do not fall foul of the employment tribunal ruling.

A health cash plan which incorporates access to a counselling service not only provides employees help with everyday healthcare costs, but it can also be used to address stress related illnesses.

Engage Mutual’s one fund health cash plan provides holders with access to a confidential 24hr helpline manned by qualified counsellors, who are on hand to provide support and advice.

This service is complimentary and callers are entitled to unlimited telephone sessions without any impact on the annual health cash plan allowance. If further assistance is required they will be referred to a counsellor for face-to-face help. The employee is then able to claim back all, or a proportion of the cost, depending on their claim allowance.

Health cash plan counselling services provide help and support to assist an employee through a difficult time. Making this sort of help available to employees offers an element of protection to the employer too, helping to look after the interests of both parties.

David Castling corporate sales manager at Engage Mutual Tel: 0800 028 6247