Health benefits are now amongst the most sought-after benefits in the UK – consistently coming in somewhere just behind flexible working and a pension.
A recent survey by employee benefits tech company Zest found 83% of UK businesses are witnessing a substantial increase in employee requests for more comprehensive wellbeing benefits in the workplace.
With NHS waiting lists predicted to reach the 8 million mark by the summer of 2024, attitudes to health, wellbeing and healthcare are changing – and demand for private back-up is higher than ever.
Changing attitudes to private healthcare
It comes as no surprise to us here at Equipsme. After the pandemic we did some of our own research, and we found that 7 out of 10 people were already worried about the NHS’s ability to treat them. We saw the number of people interested in company health insurance double in a single year, with 6 out of 10 saying they’d even be prepared to pay for it.
While people still love and treasure the NHS, more recent research by the Independent Healthcare Providers Network found that half felt positive about private healthcare - clearly seeing a role for it to work alongside the NHS – and another third felt neutral about it. Those who’d actually had the chance to use it felt even more positive about the experience, with younger people more likely to be using or open to private healthcare options.
Young people driving demand
The fact is that wellbeing is a new priority for younger people – particularly for Gen Z. This is a generation that’s prepared to invest in their health in new ways, spending large chunks of their income on things like gym memberships, health and beauty products and supplements. Spending on health care and expecting health benefits from their employer is the new normal.
That’s certainly something Lily Shippen, as one of Equipsme’s newest clients, understand really well. As a specialist recruitment agency for executive assistant and HR roles, Lily Shippen work with a lot of young talent, and I talked to head of operations Emily Mills about what she sees as both an employer and a recruiter.
Emily said: “Today’s younger workforce have high expectations of employers. As an employer if you aren’t offering the extras, you’re not going to get the best talent in the market.”
The long tail of the pandemic
Emily continued: "The pandemic forced employers hands, and forced them to look at employee welfare holistically. Businesses were compelled to look at how and when people perform at their best – when they are well, when they are happy, when they have flexibility to live both their personal and professional lives. Most of all, it allowed employees to prove that if they are given the tools to do so, they can perform at a better rate, standard and productivity - and they can do so from anywhere. The competition to get the great people in key roles suddenly became brutal. It became an employee’s market. And health is suddenly one of those crucial tools - not only to keep people at their very best but to attract them in the first place.”
Working with Lily Shippen
It's why as Lily Shippen started to grow, benefits were top of their agenda, and health benefits was the very top of the wish-list for the Lily Shippen team. But when I first spoke to Emily, she’d been struggling to find cover that would work for them.
She explained to me: “We weren’t actually sure we could deliver a solution that would be universal, usable AND affordable. To find a viable PMI option as an SME that actually delivers value to employees is a real challenge. Equipsme was the ONLY affordable solution that gave us the kind of quality we were looking for. We couldn’t find a competitor that was even close to being able to match it.
“It was really easy to get a price, the benefits were on a par with other PMI, it wasn’t intimidating, and it was really simple to manage – without lots of complicated language or complicated clauses. Most of all, it was cheap, and it was EASY. I wanted to be able to look at the data available and know what I was getting, how much it was going to cost, and how it would actually work. It’s surprisingly difficult to get a straight answer from most providers.”
The middle ground
Funnily enough, that’s exactly how Equipsme came into being, back in 2018. We saw a gap in the market for a middle ground between expensive PMI for the leadership team and budget cashplans for the masses. And we set about building a product that could provide real but affordable health insurance for whole organisations - with a transparent pricing structure, one price for all ages, no medical questionnaires, and we’re upfront about what is and is not covered to help reduce jargon.
We also let employee members pay themselves to upgrade their cover or add family.
The model has proven really effective, and Equipsme now works with a host of businesses ranging from small agencies, theatres and charities through to huge engineering firms, energy providers and restaurant chains. It’s my job to help those organisations understand our products, set up their own systems, communicate to employees and encourage them to start using their benefits.
For Lily Shippen, one of the key attractions of Equipsme was that gateway to private health insurance for the families of their workforce, too.
Emily said: “Two of the women who work here actually cried when they were told about Equipsme. Both have families, both were clearly worried about the NHS’s ability to look after them, and neither of them ever thought they’d get private health insurance as back up. It’s not something that’s typically offered in recruitment agencies, especially at more junior levels, and especially in smaller organisations.
“We believe we’re now one of the only smaller agencies in our field offering all colleagues PMI. That means that Equipsme has given us a real advantage over our competitors when it comes to recruiting and retaining top talent. If you’ve got a choice between two jobs with a similar salary, you’re going to take the one with the added extras that really matter to you, obviously.
“We’re a small business. We don’t have a shiny sparkly pot of money at the end of the rainbow for endless shiny sparkly benefits. The pot we do have we want to use to create benefits that actually MEAN something to people. That’s definitely what we’ve got with Equipsme.”
Quality cover, affordable prices
We see our job at Equipsme as getting real, quality health benefits out to more and different kinds of people in more and different kinds of businesses, and I’ve loved getting to know the Lily Shippen team as they’ve been on their benefits journey.
I started talking to Emily nearly six months before they went live with their Equipsme plan. It was a big decision for them and a big investment in their people, and both of us wanted to make sure we got it right. I’m not one for the hard sales pitch – I just want to help businesses thrive by helping their people get the health they need to thrive, too.
The Lily Shippen team now have health support and insurance benefits through Equipsme that includes a 24/7 GP service, access to physio support and up to 5 face-to-face sessions, nurse support line, and diagnosis services through AXA Health approved private hospitals. They also added on stress support, so the team can access EAP services, and even face-to-face counselling if needed.
Oh, and there’s up to 40% off gym memberships if Gen Z wants to invest in their health that way, as well!
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