Employers are seeing their costs rise this year, but cutting out dental cover could be a short-term move that risks your company and employees’ health

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Quite rightly, 2016 started with lots of SMEs talking about benefits spend. Next month sees the introduction of the new National Living Wage which requires many bosses to pay out extra everyday what plans like ours cost per week. It’s understandable businesses are having to look at their costs.

The spotlight undoubtedly falls on what we know employers regard as the ‘second-tier’ layer of benefits: those below the top ones (pensions and private medical insurance) – but which fall distinctly into the category of preventive, and health related benefits. Sometimes these are difficult to pin ROI to, and included in this mix are cash plans, gym memberships, and wellbeing benefits. There’s a lot to choose, but we think it’s vital employers don’t cut back on this important second tier.

They may come lower down in the pecking order, but we find that dental plans have massive employee buy-in. They meet worries from staff that they may not be able to afford dental costs by providing fast repayment of costs (up to set limits), and as such, they’re benefits that employees either miss if they’re taken away, or come to expect their employers to provide.

What’s often not known, however, is that dental services play a vital role in determining people’s overall wellbeing too. Poor oral health is now positively linked to cardio-vascular disease and heart disease*. A check-up at the dentist is no longer just about the teeth; it involves an entire mouth and gums check-up that is just as important as a regular visit to a GP.

By having a proper plan in place, all of the excuses people have for not getting into the habit of having regular oral health check-ups are removed. Poor oral health can develop because people have had poor experiences with dentists; like having to wait too long (so they don’t just bother) or because costs are too high. Denplan’s solutions address each of these. Not only can costs be recouped for employees – the most obvious benefit – but there are other perks too. We have a network of 6,500 dentists, and we can help employees choose dentists they might not have been able to afford before, or choose dentists that have waiting lists that are shorter – enabling them to be seen quicker. By removing as many barriers as possible, we feel employees are able to better manage their health.

All of this is very good news for employers. And there’s plenty more that’s beneficial for them too. After having gone through auto-enrolment, many SMEs are rightfully nervous of adding extra benefits that in their eyes simply involve extra administration. However, arranging a dental plan with us is now virtually admin-free, and very fast to set up. And while conversation with business owners does often come down to price, having a dental plan can save employers in other ways. Obviously, there are efficiencies around less time off work, and fewer emergency cases, but what isn’t often realised is that employers’ PMI premiums can reduce too if they have dental plans. It’s more evidence dental is perceived as integral to wellbeing.

Employers that directly fund a plan will generate the greatest buy-in, but it’s worth remembering that employees value dental enormously, and are often willing to voluntarily buy it too – fully, or through an employer-employee model. We regularly see to up 75% take-up, even when employees have to pay for it themselves. So, just being able to offer dental at all as a benefit (and at no cost to businesses), can still have a very valuable impact.

Providers are upping their game too. Recent additions we’ve made to our plans include offering cover to grandparents in addition to the rest of the family. Claims are now online, so money is returned incredibly quickly, and with our Lucent offering – unlimited number of claims on the main benefits – staff don’t even have to worry how much of their annual allowance they’ve got through.

All our research shows that if this benefit is available, people use it. Few like going to the dentist just for the fun of it, but by having a facility that removes the fears (financial as well as medical), then people will begin to take their oral health seriously. So, second-tier we may well be, but we believe dental is first amongst the benefits staff want their employer to provide.

*www.bmj.com/content/340/bmj.c2

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