Healthcare Research 2011: Package

Employee assistance programmes have taken over top spot in core healthcare benefits, and dental perks are the top voluntary choice, says Jennifer Paterson

Employee assistance programmes (EAPs), outsourced occupational health departments, workstation health audits and private medical insurance (PMI) for employees continue to rank highly on the leaderboard of core healthcare benefits provided by UK employers for some or all staff. But, for the first time, EAPs hold the top spot, with 73% of organisations offering these to some or all staff as a core benefit.

EAPs have been growing steadily in popularity since 2002, when they were offered on a core basis by 23% of respondents. In 2007, this figure had risen 48% and in 2010 it had reached 69%.

Flu vaccinations have also risen gradually in popularity as a core benefit over the past five years. In 2006, these were offered by 19% of respondents. This has risen to 43% this year.

PMI for employees has also remained popular as a core benefit over the years, consistently featuring in the top five core healthcare benefits. However, the proportion of respondents offering PMI on this basis has fluctuated slightly over the years, as has its position on the list of most popular core healthcare benefits .

Health screening also took a dip in 2010 when 20% of respondents offered it as a core benefit compared with 26% in 2008 and 26% in 2002. This year, this figure has risen to 31%, an all-time high for the perk, which can help to identify health conditions before they have a direct effect on absence levels.

Another change is in the provision of workstation health audits, offered by 63% of respondents this year, which is down on the 71% that offered the perk last year.

Optical benefits above the statutory minimum have also dipped in popularity, now being offered by 35% of respondents after 48% did so in 2010. The perk was previously offered by 33% of employers in 2008 and 43% in 2009.


For the first time, dental insurance has topped the list of healthcare benefits offered on a voluntary basis to some or all staff both in terms of the dental insurance for employees only (offered by 49%) and the dental benefits available for staff to take up for dependants (offered by 50%).

Both offerings have stayed relatively close together in popularity since 2008, when we first asked about each group separately. That year, 24% of respondents offered dental insurance to both groups, while, in 2010, 21% offered it to employees’ dependants and 19% offered it to all or some staff on a voluntary basis.†

Health cash plans, which previously topped the table, remain popular for both staff (38%) and their dependants (47%), up from 23% and 25% in 2010, respectively. Both health cash plans and dental benefits have seen significant jumps, year on year.

Also remaining popular is private medical insurance (PMI) for employees’ dependants, up from 21% in both 2009 and 2010 to 29% this year, and health screening, which has steadily risen from 8% in 2007 to an all-time high of 19% this year.

Offering health cover through a healthcare trust, meanwhile, had dropped slightly to 5% in both 2009 and 2008, from 9% in 2006. This year, the trend has reversed, being offered by 11%.


In a stagnant economy, it is little surprise that price competitiveness ranks as the top factor employers look for when selecting a provider solely for their healthcare benefits.

Not surprisingly, respondents also set great store in a provider’s levels of service. Good previous experience of a provider, the quality of their product or service, ease of contact and scheme set up or administration are also regarded highly by employers whether they are selecting a provider solely for healthcare perks or for both healthcare or group risk provision.

However, whether providers are paid through fees or through commission appears to be of little importance to employers. Each ranked at the bottom of the leaderboard whether looking solely at healthcare perks or both healthcare and group risk benefits.


Over the past five years there has been little change in what is included the top five core healthcare benefits provided by respondents in the private sectors.

However, the mainstays employee assistance programmes (EAPs), workstation health audits and private medical insurance (PMI) have switched positions on the list since 2006. That year, 71% of respondents offered PMI as a core healthcare benefit, 55% offered workstation health audits and 43% an EAP.

This year, 74% of respondents said that they offer an EAP as a core benefit, while workstation health audits are offered by 62% and 55% provide PMI for employees.


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