The business case for having a healthy and happy workforce is becoming well established. Not only will staff be more productive, but they are also more likely to join a business that cares for its people, will stick around and go the extra mile.
Yet there is considerable room for improvement in how organisations approach this. According to a study by Bupa, two-fifths of employees believe their business is “all talk but no action” when it comes to improving health, and 70 per cent believe their company does not invest in wellbeing initiatives at all.
This is having a detrimental impact on performance; nearly half of those questioned say they hold back on putting in extra effort at work, which the Centre for Economic and Business Research estimates costs the UK economy a potential £6 billion each year.
Businesses need to invest in measures that will not only help to improve the health of their employees, but also benefits which will be highly valued. According to a separate study by Bupa, dental insurance is the second most valued health and wellbeing benefit after health insurance, ranking it ahead of measures such as on-site gyms and free fruit.
There are a number of reasons why dental insurance and treatment are so popular, both for businesses and their staff, says Patrick Watt, corporate director for Bupa UK. The fact that this is a benefit from which everyone can gain, through annual check-ups and hygienist appointments, as well as care when things go wrong, is particularly appealing.
Dental insurance is the second most valued health and wellbeing benefit after health insurance, ranking it ahead of measures such as on-site gyms and free fruit
Another advantage is the peace of mind that comes with knowing they are getting quick and easy access to reliable dental treatment, at the time when it is needed, without having to cope with unexpected and potentially significant bills. “People want reassurance on the quality of dental treatment they get,” he adds. “They need to know they are in safe hands.”
The relatively low cost is also attractive. While businesses can choose to pay for this benefit on behalf of their people, generally it is deducted from employees’ pay making it more affordable, says Mr Watt. Plans start from as little as £5 a month and even the most comprehensive cost no more than £30.
Not only do they benefit from lower-cost healthcare as a result of their employer’s buying power, it also allows them to spread the cost each month and avoid any unexpected shocks should treatment be required.
“Most people are now aware of the need to go private otherwise they may have to wait a long time, so people are much more comfortable with the notion of private dentistry,” says Mr Watt.
In addition, there are clear benefits to businesses in offering dental insurance and treatment to their people “It’s a great way to attract, retain and motivate staff,” adds Mr Watt. “We’re now seeing much more competition for talent. The UK has turned into a nation of knowledge-based industries so the quality of your people is essential. Businesses know that dental benefits are highly valued and that’s why we’re seeing such growth.”
People with access to high-quality and easily accessible dental treatment provided through their employer are more likely to put in additional discretionary effort, he says, because they feel they have been well cared for.
In some cases, such as law firms, accountancy practices or professional services firms, organisations are even starting to provide space for providers such as Bupa to run clinics on-site, helping them to stand out as employers who take the health and wellbeing of their people seriously.
This can also help to reduce the amount of time people have to take off work to go to the dentist, with Bupa figures showing that two in five people who use on-site dentists save between one and three hours. “When any employee needs to take time off work for an appointment, having convenient access to dental services clearly makes that time out of the office much shorter,” says Mr Watt.
This generally tends to be more of an option for organisations with more than 1,000 people, he adds, although there are a growing number of companies on business parks or multi-use offices that are setting up similar initiatives.
As well as working with organisations wanting their own on-site facilities, Bupa is currently investing in a number of its own dental clinics. It is on track to own 75 by the end of this year, making it one of the country’s largest providers, and has also developed a new dental network with trusted partners throughout the UK, which offer a 20 per cent discount on the cost of general dental treatment to Bupa customers.
There are a number of other advantages to this, says Mr Watt, including providing clinics near people’s homes as well as work, ensuring family members can benefit too.
Bupa’s own research suggests half of employees say they would be more productive if they felt healthier, and dental insurance and treatment is an easy and cost-effective way for businesses to demonstrate their commitment to the wellbeing of their people.
“Health and wellbeing is very high up on businesses’ agendas,” says Mr Watt. “In the past businesses have used salary as the principle attraction tool, but now we’re seeing them being much more creative around benefits packages and recognising that as an employer they can negotiate some really attractive rates of health and dental services for their employees. Dental is very much part of that.”
Bupa insures more than 130,000 employees through employer dental health plans and offers a range of packages for employers of all sizes. For more information visit www.bupa.co.uk/business/business-dental-plans