Dental benefits have many advantages

If you read nothing else, read this…

• Dental benefits can be used as an engagement and motivation tool.
• Good dental health can help to reduce sickness absence.
• Dental perks can help employees to ease the worry that may stem from lengthy NHS waits.
• Dental cover can also be extended to employees’ family members.

Dental benefits can improve employee morale and engagement and reduce sickness absence levels, says Jennifer Paterson

While often employers focus on benefits such as health cash plans, health screening or bikes for work to promote workplace wellbeing and reduce sickness absence, encouraging good dental health is another way of achieving these aims.

Dental benefits, which can be employeror employee-funded, allow staff to claim back part or all of the cost of dental treatment. Cover can be provided through a health cash plan or as an insurance product. For example, Philip Wood, executive director of sales and marketing at Health Shield, says: “All employees who have access to dental benefits as part of their [organisation’s] scheme are entitled to cash-back for a wide range of dental treatments, from check-up charges to fillings, veneers, dental crowns and bridges.”

The number of employers offering dental benefits has increased in the past few years. Richard Sear, chief executive at National Friendly, says: “Dental care is one of the most highly valued benefits by employees, and is growing in demand among employers keen to get employees back to work.”

Some employers may say staff oral health is not their responsibility. However, Andrew Bower, managing director at National Dental Plan, says: “Should employers encourage dental health? We believe absolutely.”

Dental perks can be an engagement tool, helping to boost morale, says James Glover, sales and marketing director at Simplyhealth. “It increases motivation, engagement and loyalty,” he says. “The key thing is that dental cover is used by almost everybody, even staff who are fortunate enough to be registered with an NHS dentist.”

Increase employee productivity

Health and wellbeing programmes that include dental cover can also help to increase employee productivity and reduce absenteeism caused by dental issues, which, in turn, will improve an organisation’s bottom line, says Glover.

Wood adds: “Regular visits to a dentist can help identify any potential issues before they escalate and lead to increased time off work.”

Dental benefits can also ease staff worries about access to check-ups and treatment, with often-lengthy NHS waiting lists. National Dental Plan’s Bower says: “With the economic climate as it is, people are going less for preventative check-ups, and those who are going and finding out they have problems will not always have the necessary work done because they cannot afford it. Anything that can help take the worry out of that from an employee perspective is a good thing.”

Dental cover can be extended into the employee’s home, with plans available for dependants and family members, either funded by the employer or as an employee-paid voluntary benefit. Bower adds: “It is important that the employee feels secure in the workplace, but if the plan extends to their family as well, that will have a real impact on morale. Our plans include allowances for child orthodontic treatments and we get hundreds of claims for these.”

Including a dental plan in a comprehensive healthcare offering is also a good way to attract and retain employees. In some cases, people regard it as an expected perk in a benefits package, says Health Shield’s Wood.

To get the best return from dental benefits, employers should communicate them well to employees, and make it easy for staff to access the perk. For instance, Capita Group, which acquired National Dental Plan last August, has rolled out an online voluntary dental plan for its 37,000 UK staff. Bower says: “We have just launched an online application for the Capita Group, so it is really simple. From an employer perspective, it has to be a good product that offers value for money. It has to be made easier for employees and offer freedom of choice.”

Read also Buyer’s guide to dental plans