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From ping pong tables to unlimited vacation days, dedicated employers are always looking for innovative ways to keep employees engaged and happy. However in providing health insurance, a fundamental aspect of employee benefits, employers seem to be less than dedicated.
The share of employers on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list that pay for 100% of employee’s healthcare has dropped to 9% this year from a peak of 34% in 2001. With less input from the employer, staff are paying more out of their own pockets for health insurance.
According to a study by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, workers in the US with employer-sponsored health plans now contribute an average of 18% of the premium for single coverage and 29% of the premium for family coverage.
Part of the move away from plush health benefits is due to the rising cost of medical care, which has become a burden on a corporations’ bottom lines.
In Hong Kong up to 86% of employers are concerned about rising medical costs, according to Mercer’s “Hong Kong Employee Health and Benefits Survey 2015“.
The report finds that local (Hong Kong) companies are providing more health benefits than ever before, in order to attract and retain talent.
However, the majority of companies are concerned about increasing medical costs. Over half of respondents (57%) are seeking cost-containment measures, including implementation of a panel arrangement (55%) and providing wellness programs (55%).
In the US, premiums for singles and families jumped an average of 4% last year, recording raise for 10 straight years.
John Goodman, an economist at Goodman Institute for Public Policy Research suggested that dropping fully-paid health insurance also allows employers to tailor overall benefits to each employee better.
Employer-paid health insurance is really a form of wages, explains Goodman, so cutting back on the share of an employee’s health premium ultimately isn’t about aggregate savings but about providing a different form of payment.
That could be in the form of a higher salary or other more valuable benefits to a worker.
Individualising a worker’s pay package, including benefits, allows companies to link remuneration more closely to employee productivity. “Companies are trying to individualise their benefits,” Goodman told Fortune. “Instead of giving a benefit that’s really valuable to one person but not another, they’re really trying to narrow it in.”
Facing ever-growing health bills, Eva Liu, business development head, employee health and benefits, Mercer agreed that flexibility is the key for employers to control costs.
In Hong Kong, employers are trying to keep staff happy by providing as much coverage as they can, more companies are providing maternity, dental and medical check-up benefits to employees as well as critical illness benefits.
Dependent coverage is also becoming more common. For outpatient, inpatient and dental benefits, almost 70% of companies provide coverage to dependants and around 95% of those companies provide equal coverage to dependents and employees.
“This has created a financial burden in the form of rising medical costs. Progressive companies have realized that ‘one-size-fits-all’ is not good enough to win the war for talent and they look to analyse their employee data to tailor the most suitable programmes to ease that burden,” she said.
The first Managing Mental Health & Wellbeing in the Workplace online course will be launched in December.
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