Universities typically run along commercial grounds, with professional staff offering proper welfare and pastoral care. Their employee benefits policies can still, however, be outmoded and serve neither business nor the staff they are designed for.
Corporate UK – both plc and SME – has long recognised that employee benefits are not the reserve of the paternal employer, but the foundation of successful companies and make basic business sense.
Private medical insurance (PMI) – enabling a speedy return to the classroom
When an employee sees their GP about an acute or chronic condition, there is a one in ten chance they will be referred to a consultant. These appointments typically have eight-week waiting times and, until it has come, they will be worried sick, making them highly prone to stress and therefore absence. The same can be said if a member of their family is ill. With PMI, in the majority of cases, you can have an employee in front of a consultant, diagnosed, treated and back to the task of providing high-quality education within a matter of days – a better outcome for all concerned.
Income protection – the last thing anyone wants is more stress
Stress is, as is widely publicised, part and parcel for the teaching profession – but there are now better ways to manage it for both the university and the individual. Early intervention is the key; income protection insurers are gaining a great reputation working with both the employee and the employer to get better outcomes all round. Insurance companies are experts at managing health cases. They know a broken leg will heal in several weeks, but a mental health or stress issue may result in an individual never returning to work.
Cutting back on Employee Benefits could be a false economy
It’s understandable, with the financial pressures faced by all universities that many have been cutting back on employee benefits cover in recent years. However, there’s a compelling case for these benefits, as health problems can have serious implications. Along with time off work waiting for appointments and treatment, health worries can affect employees’ productivity and performance. This is something that small companies have realised and now investment in employment benefits are rising in this sector – a sector known for spending money wisely!
What’s the solution?
To be efficient, these schemes need to be flexible. Younger employees have different needs from those closer to retirement. A young employee probably doesn’t want or need full PMI, so why not offer physio for a sports injury and dental cover instead? It’s not expensive, either. Insurers have a more pick-and-mix approach to their offerings these days and within a tiered scheme, that might only cost a couple of hundred pounds per employee, whereas, buying full-blown medical insurance for most 25-year-olds is not best use of your benefit spend and they won’t thank you for the £800 P11D charge at the end of the year. So don’t buy off the peg, but try to design something with the flexibility your business requires.
The importance of communication
Good benefit schemes will be underpinned by an employee assistance programme (EAP). This is essentially a triage service that offers advice on financial and health problems, providing a safety valve for employees to get advice on matters before they become a problem. It is essential that these are communicated as a business efficiency tool so the university knows the potential risks and has measures in place to mitigate them. It’s not only an efficient structure, but a very paternal one, also. It protects the university, supports employees when they need it most and provides continuity for the pupils who will suffer most from long periods of absence. If your current scheme doesn’t offer all these benefits, perhaps it is time to review?