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A gift horse employees won't look in the mouth

30 August 2017

The costs of dental treatment hits a nerve with most employees. In some areas NHS dentists are simply not available, and any major private treatment involves parting with hundreds – or even thousands – of pounds.

Even those fortunate enough to enjoy access to an NHS dentist still have to pay anything from £20.60 to £244.30 per course of treatment, depending on the treatment band required.     

This cost issue goes a long way towards explaining why many people don’t see a dentist as often as they should do. According to Unum, around a third of the UK population fail to visit their dentist regularly, whilst a quarter admit they haven’t seen them in two years.   

Such behaviour constitutes the mother of all false economies because when treatment eventually becomes necessary it will cost far more than it need have done. 

Corporate dental insurance, which can cover the lion’s share of NHS and private routine check-ups and treatment, therefore has a very high perceived value amongst the workforce. Unlike many other employee benefits, employees know that they will be claiming on it regularly.

Additionally, it is hard to find worthwhile affordable dental cover outside the workplace. The individual market is dominated by capitation and maintenance plans which cap the costs of regular preventative treatment but, despite requiring high monthly payments, do not cover all dental costs.

Although some actual dental insurance schemes are available in the individual market they tend to constitute poor value in comparison to corporate schemes because insurers have found that they tend to be taken out by those most likely to make large claims. With group schemes, on the other hand, a spread of risk enables more attractive pricing to be offered.

Providing a company-paid corporate dental scheme can cost as little as £10 a month per employee for a very basic level of cover. It can act as a potent recruitment and retention tool and is simple to understand and straightforward to administer. The fact that it creates a P11D liability for employees is arguably the only downside.

Alternatively, employers can offer employees the chance to take out voluntary cover via a flex scheme at rates much more attractive than available via the individual market. This does not create a P11D liability, and offering it via a salary sacrifice arrangement can save up to 12% on employees’ NI.

A further option, which can also be offered as a voluntary flex benefit or can cost as little as only £5 a month per employee for a basic level of company-paid cover, is to offer a measure of dental cover alongside a range of other healthcare benefits vIa a cash plan.

Whichever format an employer chooses to provide, it is essential to realise that it is not just the employee who benefits. In addition to boosting loyalty and morale, employers stand to gain through significant reductions in both absenteeism and “presenteeism” – when employees come to work but are prevented from performing to their maximum.

According to the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy, 415,000 people in the UK miss at least one day of work each year due to problems with oral health. In some cases this is due to severe toothache or more serious conditions like oral cancer – which most dental policies cover.

But in other cases employees are forced to take an entire day off work to travel for hours to their nearest NHS dentist or to see a private dentist they are registered with in another part of the country. Corporate dental cover can, on the other hand, enable them to access private treatment very near the office.

Presenteeism costs are harder to quantify but could well be higher than absenteeism costs. It is not just the employee’s own workload that can suffer when they are in pain but also those of their colleagues. Sharing an office with someone with severe toothache can be like having to share a room with a bear with a sore head.

If you would like more information on corporate dental insurance or on how Chase de Vere can help you with setting up a scheme then please do not hesitate to contact Chase de Vere on 0345 300 6256 or complete this simple form and we’ll call you.