Written by
Russ Piper

17 May 2016

Are your people at breaking point?

17 May 2016 • by Russ Piper

Stressing the point

There are many reasons why employers seek to build a strong package of employee benefits. Whether it’s to attract the best people, improve morale, incentivise good performance or to keep good people in the business, benefits are widely recognised as an effective method to recruit and retain talent. 

In addition, a rewards package that includes a wide range of health benefits available to employers of all sizes, can also play an important role in ensuring the health and wellbeing of staff. And that could go further than you might think.

Protecting your assets

Of course, it pays to look after the health of your workforce. Aside from the moral and legal obligations of employers, a healthy workforce is a productive workforce. Absence through sickness costs UK businesses around £16bn, with an average cost of sickness calculated at £554 per employee, per year, and an average annual absence of 6.9 days per employee.

Employees are the most important asset to any company, which is why many employers are turning to health care cash plans as a way of looking after their employees. Cash plans are a type of insurance policy which pay individual employees tax free cash back towards everyday health care such as dental treatment, eye tests, glasses and contact lenses and physiotherapy. 

A cash plan helps employees to afford health costs, as well as encouraging them to seek treatment and faster diagnosis so they can return to work quicker or prevent absence. Cash plans can also deliver significant benefits over Private Medical Insurance (PMI), not least because they are available at a fraction of the cost of PMI and the price isn’t based on an individual’s medical history.

Cash plans can offer significant savings compared to putting standalone provisions in place, giving staff access to a wide range of benefits under one roof – and because the premiums are classed as a business expense, they can reduce corporation tax too. 

Healthy bodies, healthy minds

However, there is more to a cash plan than simply protecting the physical wellbeing of employees. 

According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), the single biggest cause of sickness in the UK is stress. It remains a huge issue, affecting one in five of the working population4 and contributed to the loss of 9.9 million working days in the year up to April 2015. In that same period, a diagnosis of stress accounted for 35 per cent of all work-related ill health and 43 per cent of all working days lost due to illness. 

Some employees show signs of stress and some don’t, but all employers should be ready to manage it. Thankfully, awareness is growing; there is a wealth of information available to employers and employees on the internet, including some fantastic resources from organisations such as the HSE, Stress Management Society and Mind, the mental health charity. 

Employee assistance programmes

In its simplest form, the financial planning and support offered by a cash plan can support an employee’s health and finances. This, in turn, can help to reduce pressures outside of work and improve their mental wellbeing. The Stress Management Society calculates that for every £1 you invest in staff wellbeing, you could generate a return of £3 in improved efficiency and productivity – an eye catching figure for any commercial organisation.

For more comprehensive support however, some packages include access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which offers confidential support and counselling on a range of personal or work-related issues, from marriage to divorce, birth to bereavement, legal issues to debt management. 

This valuable combination of financial and emotional support can help employees through difficult times, in all aspects of their life. With a 24 hour confidential helpline, online support, face to face counselling and access to money management, legal, financial and general citizens information services – not to mention the cash back on everyday health care - employees can feel supported inside and outside of the workplace. It’s good for employees and good for the business too. 


1.    Mind.org: http://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/mental-health-at-work/taking-care-of-your-staff  
2.    XpertHR - October 2015
3.    CIPD Absence Management Annual Survey Report 2015
4.    HSE, cited by The Stress Management Society
5.    Tim Adams, The Guardian – February 2016
6.    Tim Adams, The Guardian – February 2016
7.    The Stress Management Society