How UAE-Based SMEs Should Customize Staff Health Insurance Benefits

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While the concept of providing different levels of health insurance benefits for different levels of staff isn’t new, it hasn’t really been common practice among small and medium-sized companies until recently. But now the arguments for tailoring health insurance benefits are stronger than ever– regardless of the size of your organization.

Last year’s arrival of mandatory health insurance for all employees in Dubai probably affected SMEs most, making a serious dent in what are already limited budgets. You may have been tempted to keep costs down by going for basic local coverage, leaving your employees to top up their cover independently if they require a higher level. But in doing so, you could be missing a trick. Research has shown that employees in the UAE place a high value on the benefits they receive, providing a great opportunity for employers to strengthen staff loyalty and retention So, now is a great time to consider offering different levels of health insurance, taking into account issues such as seniority, length of tenure with a company, and specific needs. As well as helping you attract and retain the best people in the market, offering tailored health insurance benefits could even help you make savings in the long term.

Whether you are based in Dubai or elsewhere in the Middle East, here are some excellent reasons for considering tailored health insurance for your staff.

Attracting and retaining the best talent for your company

Benefits such as health insurance are clearly important for people in this part of the world when it comes to choosing an employer. In 2016, recruitment company Hays found that benefits were the second biggest motivator to switch jobs for employees in the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) region. These findings are reflected by other studies, including, which noted that unsatisfactory compenzation and benefits was the number two reason for employees in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to be dissatisfied at work.

This doesn’t mean you need to splash out on top-level international private medical insurance for all your staff. But putting in place a stepped scheme is a great way to reward and retain talent. It means employees earn a higher level of coverage when they receive a promotion or have spent a certain number of years with the company.

Meeting employees’ specific needs and expectations

Once at senior executive level, people tend to expect a comprehensive medical insurance package. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean international coverage, unless an employee’s role involves frequent travel.

There are some excellent local and regional health insurance options on the market, offering care via a good network of high-quality providers. In order to compete with larger companies for expat talent, you might have felt the pressure to offer international health cover as standard for foreign workers. However, a 2015 survey revealed that confidence in local health services in the UAE among foreign workers is growing, with 33% saying their confidence in the health system is improving and 76% confirming that they trust local health professionals. That said, the same survey found that a significant number admitted that in case of serious illness, they would still prefer to seek treatment in their home countries. So, as a starting point, it would be sensible to run a simple survey to gauge employees’ levels of need. This will help you decide on the best overall approach for your staff and put you in a good position to begin investigating the options.

Be aware, though, that health is a personal issue. You will need to think carefully about the way you canvas the needs of your employees. For example, people with serious and chronic conditions are often reluctant to admit their state of health to their employer, concerned that it might have a negative impact on their career. So, one option might be to run an initial survey anonymously, to help you build up an overall picture of the health insurance your employees require.

Financial savings with customized staff health insurance

Tailored health insurance benefits can help you make savings in a few ways:

• Keep expenditure down by providing good basic coverage as standard, with higher levels of benefits only for senior staff and those with specific needs.

• Tailored health insurance benefits are a great way to retain staff. So, with lower employee turnover, you are saving on recruitment and training costs.

• Access to healthcare means employees will stay in better health, resulting in less absenteeism, higher morale and productivity.

• When it comes to hiring staff, providing good health insurance benefits attracts better candidates.


Related: Four Tips To Control Your Company's Health Insurance Premiums

It’s simpler than you think

Setting up a customized health benefits scheme needn’t be expensive. To make the process easier, you can seek the assistance of an insurance adviser or broker. They earn through commission paid by insurance providers, so will offer their services to you for free.

There are various options for setting up a customised health insurance scheme:

• A stepped scheme, where people automatically benefit from an increasing level of cover when they reach particular milestones. This could be level of seniority or number of years with the company.

• An automatic system where staff are allocated the appropriate health cover depending on their circumstances. This is based on a questionnaire, their HR records and any new information they provide.

• A bespoke arrangement, where your HR team arranges health insurance individually for each employee to suit their needs. This can be adjusted as appropriate, such as adding additional maternity cover if a woman becomes pregnant.

• A flexible benefits scheme, where employees can choose the coverage they want up to a certain value. This increases with seniority and/or tenure.

• A voluntary benefits programme, where staff can choose to add supplemental insurance to top up their standard cover at their own expense while benefiting from a discount.

Even if you have as few as two employees, an insurance adviser will be able to help you decide what would work best for your organisation, suggest appropriate providers and help you get started.

Doing what’s best for your SME and your employees

Now that providing health insurance for staff is compulsory in Dubai and much of the region, it has become a core part of any salary package. Simply providing health insurance is no longer enough to make your organization stand out. However, offering a well thought-out health insurance program that takes into account the needs of individual employees can really differentiate your organisation.

This was underlined recently by Essam Disi, Director of Strategy and Policy at Dubai SME, who said: “The new health insurance regulations are aligned with the government plans to promote business sophistication and achieve social development goals.” He went on to note that with over 150,000 SMEs in Dubai, it is important that their focus isn’t solely on cost, but on taking care of employees and ensuring they are happy. All of which will help boost productivity.

So, if you haven’t yet made the move to offer your staff tailored health insurance benefits, there is no time like the present.

Related: How UAE-Based SMEs Should Choose Their Employee Health Insurance Policy