Whether you choose an occupational health (OH) provider to work directly with your school, or whether your staff absence insurance policy includes an OH service, there are several things to look out for.
Range of services included
Depending on which provider you opt for there are various levels of service that you may be entitled to. This could be via a pay-as-you-go style service, a quote based service, or a package based service. However, it’s important to ensure that you’re giving your staff access to exactly the services you and they require, and there aren’t any nasty surprises further down the line when you realise that what you want isn’t actually included.
Be wary when choosing a staff absence insurance provider who offers occupational health as part of the package, as this will often only be at the discretion of the insurers and therefore won’t act as a resource for the school in the same way that it will do for the insurers.
OH providers can offer a huge range of services, from assessments and reports to counselling and absence management programmes. As well as helping your management team to keep staff absences under control, these can also offer an employee benefits program to your workforce who could have access to a wide range of health and wellbeing benefits privately.
The education sector comes with its own, quite unique set of challenges. As such choosing your provider for any service means you can’t take a ‘one size fits all’ approach, you need to engage a company with experience of working in the education sector. Occupational health is no different.
Offering your employees OH and wellbeing support from a company who spend their days doing medicals for truck drivers or risk assessing building sites will not be any good for your school. You need a provider who specialises in the education sector, and has experience of working with teachers and support staff. This means that not only will they know the kind of challenges and problems that your staff face daily, they will also be able to put in relevant and practicable suggestions for support provisions the school may wish to put in place.
An OH provider should be independent. Whilst they may work for a school or an insurance company, their stance must be completely neutral. They are there to assess people and their working environments, and help to coach people back into work when they are ready.
If you engage an external HR provider for your school to deal with an employee grievance you wouldn’t choose the same provider who works for the employee. The same is the case for OH. If you’re opting for a staff absence insurance provider who offer OH services, take a look at who will actually be representing you or your school. Is it an in-house OH team from the insurance company, or is there an independent company sat in the middle who can offer you impartial and balanced information?
The final thing to look out for when choosing an OH provider is price. This may seem obvious, but different OH providers can offer unique pricing structures, and some may involve hidden costs, services only given at their discretion or the discretion of the insurance company, or may have caps on usage. These are all fine if they are reflected in the price and you’re fully aware of what you’re signing up to.
For schools who need to fix their budgets it can often be most beneficial to opt for an ‘unlimited’ package, which means usage can never be exceeded and a school knows exactly how much they’re going to pay for the remainder of the year. It also encourages usage because referrals aren’t dependant on cost approvals.
Unlimited packages aren’t always as expensive as you may think. Companies such as Smart Clinic offer unlimited packages from just £25 per member of staff per year.
Freely accessible (not at the insurers discretion)
Attendance management has become a major issue within many schools, colleges and academies due to an increase in the levels of stress and anxiety amongst education workers. This can be a symptom of tight budgets, pressurised working environments and skeleton workforces that are commonplace in the education sector.
Therefore, education providers are looking for new ways to decrease the rate of absences within their workforce. To address this issue on the school’s behalf, many staff absence insurance providers have pushed occupational health and wellbeing support to the forefront of their services.
However, the accessibility of these support services varies greatly depending on the staff absence insurance provider you choose. Some providers see occupational health and wellbeing support as a tick box exercise, offering it to ensure they remain in touch with their competitors. Such providers will offer health and wellbeing support at their discretion, meaning the services they offer may not be freely accessible to members of staff who would benefit from them or would like to use them.
Choosing a provider with accessible health and wellbeing services will help to ensure that your staff receive the physical and mental health support they need to remain healthy, happy and productive in their job. When choosing your provider, be sure to ask:
When searching for a provider make sure you ask...
Can the policy administrator refer insured members of staff for your occupational health and wellbeing support services?
Are your health and wellbeing services included at no additional cost to my policy?
Are these services available to any insured member of staff who would like to use them?