June 19, 2024

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Shift to preventative healthcare and mental health support abroad: Are employers keeping pace?

There has been a shift in the most utilised benefits by overseas staff, towards preventative healthcare and mental health support, yet businesses may not have kept pace with their offering, warns Sarah Dennis, head of international for The Health Insurance Group.

According to the business, the top three most utilised employee benefits abroad are:

  • Psychiatric care
  • Wellness
  • Diagnostic procedures/MRI and testing

This represents a step change from using benefits which treat a condition, to embracing preventative healthcare – that can detect health conditions earlier, significantly improving outcomes; and mental healthcare which not only supports an employee’s wider wellbeing but where early intervention also expedites recovery.

The shift in employee psyche, from seeking curative to preventative care, and a willingness to seek help for mental wellbeing, needs to be supported by businesses. Attitudes and behaviours have changed globally, and it’s important that this is reflected in the benefits packages that employers of overseas staff offer.

Sarah Dennis, head of international for The Health Insurance Group said:

“We see this as a positive. Diagnostic procedures and support for mental wellbeing are being enhanced all the time, the earlier people are supported, the better their chances of recovery, so it’s great to see employees accessing such support.”

The Health Insurance Group provides tips on how to modernise and effectively communicate employee benefits in light of this change:

Review company uptake data

The first step is for businesses to look at what employee benefits are being utilised within their current packages. It may highlight the trend for moving towards preventative healthcare, and/or a willingness to utilise mental health support. Employers can then tailor their packages accordingly, in light of what benefits are being used.

If there is no provision made for preventative care or mental health support to measure uptake, then look at what’s available, developments to services are made all the time and it’s important to keep abreast.

To ensure packages are effective, it’s also good practice to consult employees about what benefits they’d like to receive – and this can ensure maximum uptake and engagement.

Update communications to engage employees

If there has been a shift in how employees engage with benefits packages, communications should reflect this. As benefits are updated, it’s important that employees know what’s on offer and how to access them. And taking time to understand why employees are more likely to seek particular healthcare solutions can also be worked into communications, helping others to see why it may benefit them too, and in turn improve take-up rates.

Consider international variations

It’s important to consider employee benefits in the context and culture in which they are being used. Access to mental health support, in a country where such conversations are still considered taboo, can be a lifeline to employees that are struggling abroad. If employees don’t feel able to confide in managers or colleagues about their mental health concern, having an employee benefit in place – such as a global employee assistance programme (EAP) where they can speak with a confidential third party – could give them access to much needed support, and can make the difference in an assignment being successful or not.

Sarah Dennis adds:

“We have seen a definitive shift from curative to preventative benefits, as well as mental health support being utilised by employees. Forward-thinking businesses are benefiting from reacting to this change, and implementing employee packages that reflect this need. It’s a great benefit to employers too, the better they understand employee health behaviours, the better they’re able to support them; and that’s a good foundation for building business abroad.”