The cost-of-living crisis and financial constraints have been highlighted across the media for some time but more attention needs to be paid to the businesses which are also struggling with increased costs, and how they can support the health and wellbeing of their staff affordably, says Towergate Health & Protection. As employers across the country look at budgets for the year, it’s important that they’re aware of the most cost-effective support that’s available.

David Williams, head of group risk at Towergate Health & Protection, says: “When considering the best-value benefits to support employee health and wellbeing, I would certainly encourage employers to consider group life assurance – but not for the reasons you might think. It’s true that it’s generally one of the lowest cost benefits to offer, but with providers now including a whole host of added wellbeing benefits, it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to get a whole benefits programme up and running for the price of a simple group life assurance policy. This can be particularly attractive to smaller and mid-sized companies.”

Added value benefits

Many of the group risk benefits – life assurance, income protection and critical illness – include embedded benefits. These make them really good value for money for employers. For example, many include an employee assistance programme (EAP) at no extra charge, which will offer a wide variety of support for employees, including counselling sessions and assistance with legal issues.

David Williams continues: “It is not uncommon for a company to have an EAP embedded in their group risk benefits but not be using it as they do not know it is available. If the added-value elements of group risk are utilised they can prove hugely valuable, to the point where the wellbeing support is the main employee benefit and the insurance element is almost a bonus.”

Standalone EAPs

For companies that do not have group risk benefits in place, it is a good idea to consider implementing an EAP on a standalone basis. These have very low monthly premiums and are charged on a ‘per employee’ basis, and can be a real support to a workforce.

Virtual GPs

Virtual GPs are proving an increasingly popular option as people struggle to make appointments with their GP. This is also often available as an added benefit at no extra cost within other benefits, including private medical insurance (PMI) or group risk. Not only are these low cost, they can also result in less time off work as employees do not have to visit the doctor in person and they can generally get an appointment more quickly.

Health cash plans

For a relatively small monthly premium, health cash plans allow employees to claim back the costs of everyday healthcare, such as routine dental, optical or physiotherapy treatment. Cash plans can be very low cost, depending on the benefits selected, and are often highly valued by employees as they can all make use of it. They can also come with an embedded EAP, virtual GP, or discount retail vouchers.

No-cost benefits

Voluntary and discount benefits can also be good choices for employers to consider, as both come at no cost to the employer. They allow employees to buy discounted products or services through their employer out of their own taxable pay or through a salary sacrifice scheme. The only cost to the employer is the time taken in the research, administration and communication of the options.

Williams concluded: “There is no such thing as a free lunch but there are increasingly lots of low-cost health and wellbeing benefits that also come with additional support at no extra charge, and it makes financial sense for employers to consider them. An adviser will be able to help an employer to navigate the system and find the right support for their employees, at the right cost.”