Employers increasingly offering private medical benefits to all

Despite the spiralling cost of private medical care, more employers now offer subsidised medical benefits to all staff, not just managers and senior employees, according to new research.

A survey of more than 800 organisations, by Mercer Human Resource Consulting, reveals that more than half (51%) of respondents now extend medical cover to all employees, compared to 41% in 2001.  

There is now more pressure on organisations to offer private medical benefits to all staff, to avoid discrimination claims from certain groups such as part-timers, said Steve Clements, European partner at Mercer.

“Employers face a dilemma because they want to provide medical cover but, at the same time, the cost of insurance is rising by as much as 10% a year,” he said.

Of those organisations that offer subsidised medical benefits, a quarter (25%) extend cover to all dependants, 61% to a defined category of dependants and 11% do not cover dependants at all.

Almost one in three respondents (29%) still do not cover unmarried partners, although this has fallen from 52% in 2001.  Furthermore, nearly 4 in 10 (39%) do not cover same sex partners although, again, this is lower than in 2001 (56%).

Nearly a fifth (19%) of organisations provide some form of company-subsidised cover for retirees, but this has reduced from 23% in 2001. 

Many organisations rely on intuition rather than fact when deciding whether to provide private medical cover, Clements said.

“While private healthcare can help to reduce employee absence, other issues like poor management may be causing an attendance problem,” he said. “The key is to measure and monitor absence so that interventions and benefits can be directed in the best way.”


 

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