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Health insurance can protect workers - and keep companies out of court


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 people.

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 their jobs.

"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 claim.

"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.

June 2001

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Contact:
Margaret Clark
Premier Choice Healthcare
Tel: 01733 350951

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