Businesses extend employee benefits to dependants during Covid-19 pandemic

Businesses are making a concerted effort to ensure that both employees and their dependants are supported during the Covid-19 crisis, particularly apt with Mental Health Awareness Week which focuses on the theme of kindness this year.

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Brett Hill, distribution director at Towergate Health & Protection says, “Businesses continue to look at innovative ways to support staff during this difficult time and one area has been to extend employee benefits to employees’ loved ones, to ensure that even more people have access to vital support services. With many lives turned upside down, working from home whilst juggling home schooling for example, huge areas of life have been affected, and providing support to adjust to the new normal can make a significant difference in how employees cope, and extending this to dependants is a great support.“We have seen extraordinary displays of kindness during the pandemic, such as 100 year-old Captain Tom Moore raising £30m for the NHS, and we know that kindness helps to reduce stress and improve emotional wellbeing. In the same way we are seeing businesses extend benefits to dependants, as a display of solidarity that we are all in this together, and that health and wellbeing remains a priority”.

Mental health support

Knowing the importance of looking after mental health, and understanding the holistic link between contented employees and contented dependants, some providers are now offering free access to mental wellbeing apps. It helps users to manage stress, build resilience and cope with anxiety, whilst teaching coping mechanisms, and signposting to additional services if needed. Tailored information, such as webinars that cover managing mental wellbeing during Covid-19 are also available, helping employees to navigate their current circumstances more effectively. Having this information readily available for employees and their dependants means they are supported, rather than left to source advice alone.Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) have also experienced a spike in calls, as staff reach out to access support under challenging conditions. Extending EAP accessibility to loved ones, has meant that this service can be utilised by more than just the employee – potentially providing a 24/7 counselling service helpline, emotional support, and practical information to managing during lockdown. Towergate has even seen some businesses extend their EAP access to freelancers and suppliers, aware of the powerful impact it can have on maintaining positive wellbeing. EAPs are often included as an added-value benefit within group protection benefits too, with employers utilising this to further support staff and their families during the pandemic.

Virtual support

As many physical health services are currently restricted to emergency situations only, employees can feel vulnerable if they have a non-urgent condition that they still want to address. Some organisations are offering online GP services, to help put employees’ minds at ease - as appointments can take place via video call with prescriptions delivered to a home address if needed. When offered to employees and their loved ones, benefits can help the whole family to stay on top of their health, and alleviate concerns.

Financial support

If one member of a household is affected by financial challenges, the ramifications are likely to be felt by the whole family - whether dealing with stress or collectively managing on a reduced budget. For furloughed employees struggling with their finances, independent and professional financial guidance can make a real difference, especially in a world of online scams. Employers can now offer financial education and support helplines specifically for furloughed employees and members of their family, to help them navigate what can be a difficult time financially, and therefore emotionally.Cash plan benefits can still be used when ordering online or repeat prescriptions, such as for contact lenses or glasses, or for prescription charges if prescribed medication by an online GP service. And where emergency dentistry treatment is required cash plans and dental plans are still helping to fund treatment costs. Many insurers have also removed the pandemic exclusion from cash plans and Private Medical Insurance policies, meaning that customers can claim a cash benefit, in line with policy limits, where they need to stay in hospital for NHS treatment. This financial support can make a real impact to families struggling with their finances.

Nutrition and exercise

Some businesses also offer free content to dependants, in addition to their employees – including free workout videos and advice from nutritionists about eating healthily. This can help maintain health and wellbeing for the whole family during lockdown.

Children’s mental health

Offering family mental health support lines is another benefit offered by some businesses, such as helping parents learn how to deal with their children’s anger outbursts, manage their digital consumption or provide ideas to keep them entertained. Other advice can include supporting teenagers that are struggling to cope when they cannot physically see their friends. Businesses understand that lockdown can take its toll on mental health, regardless of age or situation, so providing a service that helps employees deal with issues their dependants face can be invaluable.Brett Hill concludes, “We’re heartened to see businesses and providers alike, making a concerted effort to extend their services to ensure that dependants also benefit from the multitude of options available to maintain mental, physical and financial wellbeing. Businesses are all too aware of the additional pressures their staff face at present because of Covid-19, understanding that dependants’ wellbeing has a direct effect on an employee’s own wellbeing. Therefore, opening health and wellbeing benefits wider than to just the employee, has a positive knock on effect. The message sent is powerful too, that health and wellbeing remains a priority.”

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