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More small businesses offering employees health insurance

Updated 12 October 2020

4min read

Nick Green
Financial Journalist

Company health insurance is no longer just for big corporations, as demonstrated by startups such as Trailmix, a creator of mobile games. But it’s crucial for small businesses to get the right advice when setting up such a key employee benefit. Article by Nick Green.

Company health insurance

Despite 2020’s many challenges to the economy, with the Covid being the biggest though far from the only one, not all businesses are responding to the crises by slashing their spending. Some, in fact, are taking the opposite strategy and attempting to muscle their way through the tough times. According to advisory firm Willis Towers Watson, a significant proportion of companies are seeking to boost expenditure in key areas, especially when it comes to enhancing workers’ wellbeing.

An especially topical example of this is company health insurance, offered as an employee benefit. Once the preserve of larger organisations, it’s now growing in popularity among startups looking to attract the top talent required to drive the momentum they need. One example of this is London-based mobile gaming startup Trailmix. Dedicated to enriching the mobile gaming experience even for those who don’t see themselves as gamers, the company is similarly dedicated to its 18 staff. Even as the first wave of Covid was rocking the economy back in the spring, the company’s bosses were looking ahead at their recruitment and retention strategy, and considering how to give back to their employees with a new business health insurance scheme.

Why should a small employer offer health insurance?

For reasons that have become increasingly obvious throughout 2020, private health insurance is more popular than ever. It can therefore be a highly appealing employee benefit for those who feel they can’t afford it themselves. Healthcare cover helps employees get treated for eligible conditions faster, typically far quicker than the NHS even at the best of times, and especially so during a pandemic.

This is obviously appealing for the employees themselves, but there’s a corresponding benefit to the employer too, as it can reduce the amount of time lost to illness and keeps the workforce at full force more of the time. For a small company reliant on a select team comprising unique roles, this can be especially important.

Here are some of the benefits of company health insurance, and how Trailmix has found them useful.

Digital GP services

Most health insurance now comes with a digital GP service, a hugely popular addition in light of Covid-19. Digital GP services give patients remote access to a UK GP, often 24/7. Patient appointments take place by video link or telephone to enable consultations without visiting a surgery, and the corresponding risk of picking up other infections. These GPs can do everything a regular GP can, including offering advice, issuing prescriptions and making onward referrals for private treatment under the scheme if required.

Trailmix’s employees sing the praises of their digital GP service, AXA’s [email protected]

‘The feedback I’ve had is that obtaining an appointment is both fast and easy, while the GP was really attentive,’ says Lauren Alper, office manager at Trailmix, who arranged its health insurance benefits. ‘We’ve also already had one staff member referred to a specialist from the [email protected] service. From a company perspective, the quicker they can get in to see a doctor, the less time they are likely to be off work. Obviously, this is great for both the staff and the business.’

Rapid access physiotherapy

Deskbound office workers suffer high incidences of back and neck pain. Even among those with more active jobs, it’s still a common concern. In recognition of this, health insurance providers typically offer physio and/or joint-related therapies without a GP referral. This provides direct access to private healthcare for musculoskeletal problems.

Such problems have only worsened since the pandemic, which displaced many workers from their offices and left them hunched over laptops at home on kitchen tables or even on sofas. Consequently this insurance comes as a welcome and timely benefit for the staff at Trailmix and many other companies besides. By providing fast access to medical attention at the first twinge of back pain, insurers help to nip problems in the bud before they develop into full blown issues requiring sick leave.

Counselling and mental health support

Along with back pain, mental health problems are another big cause of sickness absence in the UK – and another one potentially exacerbated by lockdown. Health insurers are more than aware of this and offer early assistance in this area as well.

From helplines to smartphone apps, insurers have built ways to tackle common mental health concerns such as stress and depression into their policies. For instance, this might be providing telephone counselling, some cognitive behavioural therapy or a mental wellbeing app designed around stress relief. As with back pain, early intervention cuts the time that employees need to spend off sick, as does equipping them with the tools they need to manage their mental health.

How independent advice helps small businesses provide health insurance

Trailmix serves as a great example of how independent advice can help smaller companies source the right business healthcare cover for their needs. The company had three main stipulations that were non-negotiable: no excess for workers, coverage for all pre-existing conditions, and flexibility to add staff as the company grew.

This combination is something Trailmix would probably have struggled to achieve without advice. Although a flexible policy with no excess is fairly simple, covering all pre-existing conditions is less so. That’s because it requires a special kind of underwriting that isn’t usually available to smaller firms.

However, Trailmix’s chosen adviser, Drewberry, was able to compare Business Health Insurance quotes from across the market on their behalf. Drewberry then used its leverage as an intermediary to find a provider willing to offer Trailmix Health Insurance with the underwriting they were looking for.

Without advice and the power of a whole-of-market intermediary in their corner, it’s unlikely that Trailmix would have been able to achieve its goal of covering all its workers’ pre-existing conditions. As it stands, Trailmix got the cover they wanted at a price they were happy with — all through expert, independent financial advice.

If your small business is looking to provide new employee benefits such as healthcare cover, you can find a financial adviser to help.

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About the author
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for Unbiased.co.uk, the site that has helped over 10 million people find financial, business and legal advice. Nick has been writing professionally on money and business topics for over 15 years, and has previously written for leading accountancy firms PKF and BDO.