Are your employees using the free services that come with their benefits?

The cost of living is taking its toll on everyone. As everyday essentials, such as food, fuel and utilities are increasing in price, employees are worrying about making ends meet.

With high energy bills, the upcoming winter months are set to be a challenge. Due to this, Ciphr reports that nearly one third of UK employees are working more hours.

But this is at the expense of their physical and mental health. Long hours at work combined with financial worries is causing staff to be stressed. Stress can cause physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches and muscle aches, as well as mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Business owners may see a spike in staff absences as a result.

During the cost of living crisis, it’s important for employers and employees to take extra care of their wellbeing. While high inflation means a quarter of businesses can’t offer pay rises, your employee benefits are invaluable.

Many group health, life and income protection policies offer extra services for free. Not only do these cost nothing for staff, they also don’t need to claim to make use of them.

As an employer, it’s vital to encourage staff to use the free services on top of their standard remuneration. The following can help support yours and your employees’ physical and mental health.

Virtual GPs

If an employee is feeling unwell, it’s not always easy to get a GP appointment. For those working long hours, getting to a local surgery during opening hours feels impossible. Not only that, long waiting lists can delay healthcare.

Illness alongside financial hardship can increase stress and result in more sick days. However, many group income protection and private health products provide virtual GP services as a free extra. This gives staff access to GP appointments via an app, website or helpline and they’re usually available 24/7, 365 days a year.

They can get the healthcare they need at a convenient time. In fact, some virtual GP services are available until 10pm or later. This allows staff to get diagnosed and receive treatment without going to their GP.

Second medical opinions

While staff can’t avoid the rising costs, they can place a stronger emphasis on keeping themselves healthy. Experiencing a bout of poor health can be another stressor on top of their financial worries. Getting the correct diagnosis and care is key to ensuring they get back up on their feet sooner rather than later.

Many private health insurers offer second medical opinions as an extra employee benefit. This enables staff to receive confirmation and reassurance about a health issue and find the most appropriate treatment. It can protect their health and wellbeing by avoiding misdiagnosis and incorrect treatment, both of which could delay care and recovery – and lead to higher rates of absenteeism. As their employer, you can support staff via your employee benefits for no extra cost.

Mental health counselling

There are rising concerns that the cost of living is leading to a mental health crisis in the workplace. In a recent study, employee benefits consultancy Drewberry found that nearly half of employees feel stressed. Money worries contribute to this stress, which can affect mental health and lead to poor concentration, low mood and increased absenteeism.

If you provide income protection, health or life cover within your company’s benefits, some offer mental health services for free. Policies may allow a set number of counselling sessions either virtually or face-to-face. Advice helplines are available to staff when they need support or someone to chat with. Some providers even extend the benefit to employees’ family members.

Rehabilitation services

Becoming unwell or experiencing mental illness may lead to more days off. Stress causes both physical and mental symptoms, so as an employer, it’s important to help your workers in any way you can.

To help staff return to work and prevent absences, health and income protection policies offer rehabilitation services. From physiotherapy and occupational therapy to consultation services, these enable people to get back on their feet. It’s also free for your employees to use, so there’s no extra financial stress.

Employee discounts

Some protection providers offer gym and retail discounts for free as part of their products. The Medicash Health Cash Plan, for example, offers employees a variety of discounts through its Medicash Extras service, including retailers such as:

            •           Sainsbury’s

            •           Morrisons

            •           Currys

            •           Debenhams

Cheaper cinema tickets and gym memberships are often also supplied through different protection providers. Discounts are a great way to help staff through this difficult time as it allows their income to go further. Many employers are opting to provide a discount platform which gives employees access to even more discounts. Although this is a paid benefit, employee discount schemes are much cheaper than company-wide pay rises. Employees can save hundreds of pounds a year through these platforms.

With a better understanding of what insurers provide for free, make sure your team is aware of these and how to access them. As the employer, don’t forget you can also make use of these extra benefits during the cost of living crisis.

If you’re looking to review your existing employee benefits or add new ones to your company package, Drewberry can help. With extensive knowledge of the market, they can help your business ensure it gets the best protection and additional benefits.

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