Health benefits nearly as important as pensions for half of UK workers

More than half of UK workers want their employer to take more responsibility for their health and wellbeing needs, with workplace health benefits now valued almost as highly as having an occupational pension.

Health insurer Bupa says it has seen demand rising sharply for private medical insurance (PMI), and the gap narrowing between medical cover and pensions as the most valued employee benefit.

It also added to calls for the government to offer tax breaks to firms that invested in health and wellbeing programmes.

PMI, health assessments and free gym membership were now at the top of the workplace health wish-list for many workers, the company said.

Ann Greenwood, director of business markets at Bupa Health Insurance, said the rising popularity of workplace health benefits, particularly PMI, reflected changing attitudes to personal healthcare.

People wanted more control of their healthcare rather than leaving it to chance, or having to wait on the NHS.

“They want faster access to specialists and no waiting lists, but most of all they are concerned about hospital cleanliness, with almost three in every four citing clean hospitals as a key reason for buying PMI – up 8% on 2007,” Greenwood said.

“Our own research of corporate clients shows that nine out of 10 employers want to see support from the government. More than half would invest more in employee health and wellbeing if fiscal disincentives were removed,” she added.

In a separate development, a study by consultancy Mercer has suggested that the spiralling cost of providing healthcare benefits in the US may finally be slowing.

After three years of double-digit growth in the first half of the decade, annual health benefit cost increases slowed to about 6% in 2005 and have stayed there ever since, it found.

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