A company health insurance scheme can not
only help to protect workers' health - it can keep their employers out
of court, a leading medical insurance expert has told local business
Margaret Clark of independent healthcare
advisers Premier Choice Healthcare told a meeting of the Peterborough
chapter of Business Network International (BNI) that firms are
increasingly at risk from workers who sue because of the stress of
"Quite large amounts have been
awarded in damages to employees who have suffered ill health as a
result of stress at work," said Ms Clark.
"It is a difficult health and safety
issue for companies to deal with because symptoms and causes are not
easily identified - it is not as straight-forward as ensuring the
physical safety of employees.
"This concept of liability for
stress, and the increasing willingness of employees to sue their
employers, is something which has been imported from the USA. However,
it is also possible to import a solution - health insurance."
Companies which can demonstrate that they
offer access to stress counselling and other therapeutic services
through the health insurance they provide for employees have a good
defence against this type of court action, Ms Clark told BNI members
at a meeting at Peterborough United Football Club.
"Having insurance in place does not
mean you can then simply pile the pressure on employees," she
said. "But a reasonable employer treating staff reasonably well
would be able to point to the health insurance as a remedy which was
provided for staff who are suffering from stress.
"Employers could meet the costs of
the insurance many times over simply in the avoidance of a single
"More importantly, though, the
insurance can offer genuine assistance to staff who are not able to
cope without help. Of course, it also provides all the usual benefits
of a healthier workforce that takes less time off for treatment and
the advantages of being able to plan ahead with certainty about the
dates of any treatment which will mean time away from work."
Ms Clark stressed the need for companies
which already have health insurance schemes in place to check that
they cover stress counselling - and then ensure that employees are
aware of it.
"There is no purpose in paying for
insurance cover if employees do not know it exists," she pointed
out. "And failing to communicate the existence of the benefit
could undermine its value as a defence in a legal action.
"In any event, companies should
regularly review their health insurance schemes to ensure that they
meet their current requirements."
Premier Choice Healthcare undertakes free
reviews of existing schemes and offers advice on setting up new ones.