Life - Articles - Vital role of employer in supporting workforce health

The majority of people who used insurance to access vital healthcare services in 2022 did so through workplace schemes, according to new research from the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

 For the first time, the ABI has collected data to show how many people use insurance provided by their employer to access health services. The data shows that, of the 1.8 million people who accessed healthcare through either health or protection insurance in 2022, 1.3 million (75%) relied on workplace provided schemes to do so. At a time where record long-term illness levels are buffeting businesses, the findings highlight the crucial role of the employer in protecting the health of the workforce.

 This is reflected in the use of virtual GPs, with almost 600,000 (87%) of the 700,000 people who used virtual GPs in 2022, using their employer’s scheme. The number of virtual GP appointments people are making has also grown exponentially, with 1.4 million appointments across the year, a 92% increase on 2021 and nine times more than 2019.

 Insurers arranged 1.2 million mental health counselling and therapy appointments in 2022. 94% of these were accessed through a workplace scheme, with 192,000 of the 200,000 people who used the services using workplace insurance.

 By providing health and / or protection insurance, employers can help employees access early intervention treatment and prevent conditions from worsening. This supports people to stay in work or return sooner.

 The ABI’s report, Growing Demand – increased use of health and protection services in 2022, urges the Government to help maximise the role health and protection insurance can play in tackling the in-work sickness crisis plaguing the UK economy. To incentivise more employers to offer health insurance as a benefit to their employees, the ABI is asking Government to:

 Increase the rate of statutory sick pay, make it payable from the first day of sickness absence, and make it available to all workers earning less than the current lower earnings limit.

 Embed ‘phased returns to work’ in the sick pay system to support employees’ rehabilitation after long-term illness.
 Allow SMEs to claim back a proportion of sick pay costs if they have effective systems in place to support workers back into the workplace.

 Acknowledging that the tax on buying health and protection insurance may make it unaffordable for businesses and low-earning workers, the ABI has called for Government to:

 Cut the standard rate of Insurance Premium Tax (12%)
 Remove National Insurance Contributions (13.8%) paid by employers for health insurance
 Exempt health insurance premiums from employee-paid income tax
 Remove the double taxation of Group Income Protection (GIP) purchased through salary sacrifice

 Dr Yvonne Braun, Director of Policy, Long Term Savings, Health and Protection at the ABI, said: “Some 2.8 million people are out of the workforce because of long-term sickness. Keeping people healthy and in work is vital for our economic growth and productivity as a country.

 “Our latest data demonstrates that there is huge demand for health services provided by workplace insurance. The data also shows an exponential rise of virtual GP appointments, a good example of the speed and flexibility of health services insurers provide through the workplace. We urge Government to work with us to leverage fully the contribution workplace insurance can make.”


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