Study reveals employers are fanning the flames of north-south health divide (05/12/12)

Workers in the south receive better health and wellbeing care from their employers than those in the north, new research has revealed.

More than half of workers in the north (54 per cent) claim their employers make no provisions to look after their health and wellbeing, compared with just 46 per cent in the south, according to an independent study by global research consultancy TNS.

The study, commissioned by employee health risk management specialist PMI Health Group, follows recent revelations from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) that show a clear north-south divide in estimates of life expectancy1.

“These geographical inequalities in healthcare provision are surprising but there may be a number of reasons for it – from local differences in business cultural legacies to regional variations in concentrations of large corporate companies, which may have more resources for health initiatives,” said PMI Health Group director Mike Blake.

“However the onus is on all companies, regardless of size or industry type, to look after the health of their staff, particularly with increasing restrictions in NHS provision. Initiatives needn’t be expensive and the returns on investment can be substantial with sickness absence costing UK business around £32 billion a year.”

Of those workers that receive health and wellbeing benefits, 28 per cent in the south have access to on-site gyms, compared with just 11 per cent in the north.

More than a third (36 per cent) of employees in the south are offered cycle to work schemes by their companies, compared to 23 per cent in the north. In addition, back pain support is provided to 21 per cent of workers in the south, in contrast to just 14 per cent in the north.

Less surprisingly, the study revealed health and wellbeing benefits are more readily offered to employees that earn more than the UK average salary2 – with 44 per cent of these workers benefitting from healthcare provision, compared to 28 per cent that earn less than the average salary.

Cash plans ranked among most valued benefits for British staff (22/11/12)

Cash plans have taken an “unexpected” mantle as one of Britain’s most sought-after employee benefits, independent research has revealed.

The study, conducted by global research consultancy TNS on behalf of PMI Health Group, discovered a surprising 35 per cent of full-time staff rank cash plans among their top-three preferred benefits.

Of those, 11 per cent ranked cash plans as their most valued benefit, behind only contributory pensions (25 per cent), life insurance (15 per cent) and private medical insurance (12 per cent).

“The emergence of cash plans as a preferred benefit is somewhat unexpected considering their low cost when compared to alternatives such as contributory pension schemes, life insurance or medical insurance,” said Mike Blake, Director PMI Health Group.

“But the research proves they maintain a high perceived value among employees, making them an extremely viable option for businesses attempting to construct a competitive benefits package in the current climate.

“The economic downturn has caused many companies to re-evaluate their offering in the face of growing cost pressures. However, a more versatile approach, combining elements such as PMI and pension schemes with cash plans, can help to extract greater value from an investment in benefits.”

Cash plans assumed even greater importance among staff earning less than the UK average salary1, selected in the top three preferred benefits by 39 per cent of respondents – even overtaking private health insurance (38 per cent).

Although pensions were the single most valued benefit, overall health benefits – comprising PMI, cash plans, income protection, health screenings, critical illness and employee assistance programmes – accounted for 47 per cent of employees’ preferred benefits.