Workplace well-being key in corporate wellness week

Corporate Wellness Awareness Week, July 1-5, emphasises how crucial employers are in fostering employee well-being.

Celebrating Corporate Wellness Awareness Week from 1 to 5 July by highlighting the vital role that companies play in fostering employee health and well-being is not just a matter of timing, it’s a matter of necessity.

A healthy workforce is a productive workforce and a focus on wellness goes beyond just physical health.

This is particularly relevant given that the magnitude of medical expenses has shifted over the years.

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While common illnesses like influenza pose a threat, the bigger concern lies in hospital stays and unexpected medical procedures.

These events can leave employees with significant financial burdens, impacting their well-being and productivity.

While encouraging healthy lifestyles through fitness programmes and mental health support is vital, ensuring financial security in the face of unforeseen medical expenses is equally important.

Employers play a significant role in ensuring that their workforce has access to adequate health care.

Traditionally, medical aid cover has been a common employment benefit, but rising costs have made it less affordable for some employers and employees. Nevertheless, employers can still help by offering employees assistance through:

• Understanding medical aid options:

this includes explaining the benefits, limitations and potential shortfalls associated with each plan;

Considering primary health care:

for employees who cannot afford comprehensive medical aid, primary health care plans are short-term insurance products that offer access to doctors, specialists and medication, often with capped benefits for private hospital visits; and

• Offering gap cover:

gap cover bridges the gap between medical aid payouts and the costs charged by specialists and hospitals. It acts as a financial safety net to provide peace of mind for employees facing unforeseen medical expenses.

These include:

• Hospital stays:

they can be particularly expensive with costs varying depending on the condition and treatment required;

• Specialist charges:

specialists often charge above the rates covered by medical aid plans, leaving patients with significant bills; and

• Emergency room visits:

even a seemingly minor trip to the ER can result in a hefty bill. Many employees believe that medical aid offers complete coverage. Brokers can explain the intricacies of the available plan options such as copayments, network restrictions and shortfalls.

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Some plans limit coverage to specific hospitals or providers and employees must be aware of these restrictions to avoid surprise costs, while certain medical aid plans require copayments for specific procedures or medications, leaving employees with out-of-pocket expenses.

Even with medical aid, specialists’ fees often exceed the amount reimbursed and gap cover addresses these shortfalls. By offering (and even subsidising) a combination of medical aid, primary health care options and gap cover, employers can significantly improve the well-being of their staff.

This is because financial security in the face of medical emergencies will reduce stress and boost morale. Employees with peace of mind regarding health care costs are more likely to be happy, productive and less prone to absenteeism.

By prioritising a holistic approach to employee wellness that encompasses physical and financial health, companies can create a thriving workplace environment.

Offering a more comprehensive benefits package that includes access to gap cover demonstrates a commitment to employee well-being, ultimately leading to a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.

• White is sales director at Turnberry Management Risk Solutions

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