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The next step HR leaders need to take to support employees’ mental health

Why regularly reviewing your workplace healthcare plan is critical

By David Glennon | October 27, 2022

Younger generations want and expect their organisations to support their mental and emotional health. Why is this changing, and what can employers do to help?
Health and Benefits|Wellbeing
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People want their employers to support them with their mental and emotional health – and HR leaders are in the best possible position to help.

“HR leaders are lifesavers,” says clinical psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy. “You have incredible influence in building awareness around how mental health matters. When the individual sees that there's a genuine effort in the values and behaviours of the organisation when it comes to supporting individuals’ wellbeing and wellness, this impacts on recruitment, retention, feeling well at work, turnover, and the reduction of presenteeism. It can have a significant impact and create a ripple effect.”

There is more work for HRs to do. Almost half (43%) of employees feel their benefits could do more to meet their needs, according to WTW’s 2022 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey, Ireland.

The growing role of employers

Healthcare benefits are becoming more important than ever, with 66% saying that their company’s health care programme is a key reason they will stay with their current employer – this has nearly doubled from 2015 (see graph, above). People also put “Managing my health” at fourth on the list of benefits they wanted from their employer, just behind three other critical areas: retirement, flexible work arrangements and managing their finances.

Why are healthcare benefits increasingly important to people? As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, stretched public health services are facing unprecedented levels of demand. People are struggling to access healthcare and looking to their employers for help. Employees are also demanding more access to digital health services such as Virtual GPs to help improve their access to healthcare.

Younger generations see their employer as a key provider of support. In particular, Gen Z said they would look to their employer for help. There are many reasons for this. First, people’s personal and professional lives have blurred as flexible working has entered the mainstream.

Second, younger people tend to trust their employers more than older people (74% of Gen Z said they trust their employer, compared to 35% of Gen X). “For Generation Z, managing emotional health was a key area they felt was a responsibility of the organisation. It takes a while to understand this, because most people say there is a personal responsibility when it comes to our health. It depends on the generation you are in,” says Dr Murphy.

One in four people will have a mental health challenge in their life, such as depression or anxiety.”

Dr. Eddie Murphy | Clinical psychologist

Third, mental health is no longer a taboo subject, meaning people may feel more comfortable talking to their employers when they are struggling. Mental health issues are incredibly common. “One in four people will have a mental health challenge in their life, such as depression or anxiety,” says Dr Murphy.

People also increasingly expect their employers to offer private healthcare. In a fierce jobs market, companies may be competing with US multinationals, who have long seen healthcare as an important benefit.

Shopping around

So, you’ve listened to your employees and offer a private healthcare plan. But the employer’s role doesn’t end there. It is important to regularly review your healthcare plan to make sure you are getting value for money.

There are a number of reasons why employers might put off reviewing their healthcare plan. Employers often worry about what they might lose when they change healthcare provider. This is a completely understandable concern: healthcare plans and products vary considerably, and employers might worry about missing an important detail in the small print.

The choice can be overwhelming. The HIA (which regulates the private health insurance market in Ireland) is putting pressure on insurers to reduce the number of plans, but despite this, insurers introduced more plans in 2021 than they retired, with a whopping 325 plans on the market (as of July 2022).

While it might be tempting to continue to renew your existing plan, there are some very strong reasons to review them annually. The biggest reason for doing so is cost. The majority – 82% – of healthcare plans are more than five years old, and 34% are more than ten years old. Why does this matter so much? Price inflation.

As David Glennon, director of Health and Benefits at WTW Ireland, says: “If an insurer increases the price of a plan by three or four percent a year, that might sound like a relatively small amount. But over time, compound interest will really make an impact. Taking the average price of an insurance plan in Ireland in 2022 – €1,450 – over five years of inflation at four percent annually, the price could easily increase by €314 and over ten years, €700. If, as an employer you are paying for health insurance for just 20 employees, that works out as a €6,000 increase, even before accounting for dependents, which could double it again. In the coming years we do expect to see considerably higher increases in health insurance prices compared to recent years.”

Another reason to review your healthcare plan regularly is that benefits evolve over time. Newer plans may include new areas of coverage for employees, like fertility cover, menopause support, and mental health counselling.

The importance of active plan management

“At WTW, we recognized the huge time burden that reviewing healthcare plans regularly was placing on employers,” says Glennon. To help its clients, WTW has developed a solution called Advantage Health.

At WTW, we recognized the huge time burden that reviewing healthcare plans regularly was placing on employers.”

David Glennon | Director, Health & Benefits

In developing Advantage Health, WTW carefully examined the market and identified the leading plans available at four different price levels. By doing so we have reduced the market from 325 options to just four plans. WTW continuously monitors these plans, assessing their performance and competitiveness. If there is a better plan on offer, WTW will change to it. This constant review is baked into the proposition. In addition to this active plan management, WTW has secured highly competitive terms and conditions for our clients.

WTW clients can ask for a free review of their existing healthcare plan. In the vast majority of reviews to date, we have seen companies significantly reduce their costs and improve the benefits for employees and their families.

Ultimately, by reviewing healthcare plans regularly, HR leaders can make sure they are making their employees’ health a key priority – which will benefit everyone.

If you would like to learn more about Advantage Health or request a free review, please e-mail david.glennon@wtwco.com.

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