Don’t cull health and wellbeing benefits when needed most, employers warned

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Employers are being urged to resist the temptation to suspend or cull employee health benefits as part of a cost-cutting exercise during the coronavirus pandemic, as to do so could risk the health and wellbeing of their workforce.

Insurer Towergate Health & Protection has called on organisations not to leave their employees “high and dry” by removing or suspending health and wellbeing benefits during this challenging period.

It has emphasised that employees and their families might need to access their private medical insurance to continue ongoing treatment unrelated to Covid-19. Due to confidentiality obligations, employers may not necessarily know which employees or family members are receiving treatment or the reasons why, so by cutting back on benefits – even if an attractive measure in the short term – they could be removing access to vital healthcare support.

“Under these extreme circumstances, staff of all ages are looking to employers to support them through this challenging time. Actions taken now will leave a lasting impression about how employees feel about the organisation in the future. It’s important that, wherever possible, employers maintain support – particularly when it comes to employee health and wellbeing,” said Brett Hill, distribution director at Towergate Health & Protection.

“Whilst there may be a temptation to make sweeping cuts in the name of cost savings, the ripple effects it can have on employee engagement and retention – including reinstating health and wellbeing policies at a later date – can be more costly in the long run. Health and wellbeing should always be a priority and sending this message to employees now has never been more important.”

The company also encouraged employers to look at ways services could be adapted or consider any new benefits that employees may find valuable. For example, some services such as physiotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy could be continued over video or telephone conferencing.

Hill said: “Maintaining continuity of cover and speaking with advisers to see how benefits can be better utilised and adapted will help provide stability to employees when the rest of their lives can feel tumultuous.”

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