The top five health and benefits trends for SMEs in 2023

By Mark Fosh, Divisional Director, Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing

Supporting employees with the cost of living crisis, providing access to healthcare services and looking after employee health and wellbeing will be top priorities for small businesses this year. 2023 will bring some challenges for small businesses who will need to balance the rising costs of running their business with the need to retain talent and keep employees engaged.  Financially, many businesses can’t afford to offer pay rises in line with inflation, however, there are other ways to support employees through this crisis.”

With the NHS and GP services facing unprecedented pressure, offering access to healthcare services is going to be hugely valuable, as will be supporting employees with their wellbeing and health in general.

Here are some tips for SME businesses on how they can address these challenges, without breaking the bank.

Introduce a salary exchange pension scheme – A salary exchange pension scheme, sometimes called a salary sacrifice pension, is one tax-efficient option for SMEs to consider. Employees and employers can save money on National Insurance (NI) contributions and avoid the need for higher rate tax payers to claim higher rate tax relief. Some employers are choosing to redirect their National Insurance savings to boost employees’ pension pots or to fund additional employee benefits.

Review your employee benefits in 2023 – Check your benefits still represent value for money and meet the needs of your business and people. You may find you are paying for benefits your people do not use or value. A good adviser can review your current benefit programme against your business needs, employee needs and budget to ensure that it is relevant and fit for purpose.

Promote your benefits – Don’t let your employee benefits be your best kept secret – promote benefits widely so your employees really understand their total remuneration and reward package which means they will be more likely to value and use their benefits. Good benefit communication will also ensure that your employees know how to access the benefits at the point of need.

Make healthcare more accessible – Widespread reports about the NHS being in crisis and waiting times at an all-time high are likely to be a cause for concern for many and particularly for employees waiting for diagnosis or treatment, which may lead to them taking time off work. This year, we expect more SMEs to introduce healthcare benefits. This may be extending existing healthcare benefits to more or all staff or introducing benefits such as private medical insurance (PMI), health cash plans, dental cover and virtual GP services.

Such benefits are likely to be popular as they provide reassurance employees can get the treatment and the healthcare advice they need when they need it. Many PMI policies now include value added services such as access to mental health nurses and online wellbeing support. PMI and healthcare benefits can often be more cost effective than people think.

Focus on wellbeing, particularly financial wellbeing – Workplace wellbeing has topped the agenda for many SMEs over the last few years and, 2023 will be no exception. Businesses recognise that promoting a healthy and active workforce can increase productivity, lead to a happier and healthier workforce and one that is likely to take less time off due to ill health.

This year, we expect financial wellbeing in particular to be popular. In the current climate, many employees are feeling the pinch. And let’s not forget, there has been a whole generation that has entered the UK workforce since the last big financial crash, who have never experienced a recession before and may be looking for guidance and support to help them manage their finances.

Money worries can have a detrimental impact on an individual’s mental wellbeing and impact their performance at work. Offering solutions such as financial education programmes, access to discount platforms, wellbeing apps such as Be Well World or financial advice sessions for staff can all help employees to take control of their finances.