Medical benefits tops list of perks

Health-related benefits (medical insurance, dental & vision) make the top of benefits list offered by employers in the Middle East, according to consulting firm Mercer.

The survey, Making Smart Benefit Choices, conducted by the company shows that this particular benefit is much sought after considering the high costs involved in medical treatment.

It is obligatory that medical insurance is provided to the employee by the employer in the UAE. “Whilst leading employers in the UAE are now moving towards more broad based benefit solutions, the KSA market continues to adjust to the introduction of mandatory health insurance during the past three years. The market has been dominated by price being virtually the only important factor in decision making as providers seek to build a share of the market and employers struggle to allocate a defined budget for a large cost that they didn't need to account for just a few years ago,” the survey puts it.

Steve Clements, Employee Health & Benefits Leader for the Middle East commented: “Healthcare benefits typically are a prominent feature in benefits packages across the region. This is partly as a result of legislation mandating coverage in some areas but also because both local nationals and expatriates place a high value on being able access healthcare services for themselves and their families. To recruit and retain the best talent, employers are under pressure to offer a broader range of benefits to their employees.”

Dorian Hannington, the Mercer Principal Employee Health & Benefits Leader in Riyadh says “With price remaining a key factor for employers, we are starting to see them become more interested in understanding what is truly driving the spend on healthcare and wanting to use new approaches to improve employee behaviours. Health insurance should be just one element of a broader health and wellness strategy.”

The Making Smart Benefit Choices survey also asked employees to rank the kind of benefits they are willing to pay for themselves, often referred to as “voluntary” or “flexible” benefits. Employees are so bent on healthcare benefits that many are willing to pay for their health – that in itself is testament to the high importance employees place on healthcare benefits.

While health benefits are usually pre-requisite, employees are finding difficulties with adding more benefits as the costs are outpacing inflation. The solution: voluntary of flexible packages that empower employees to choose the benefits that match their particular needs and lifestyles.

Clements adds: “We are now designing solutions with employers that enable them to better manage benefit costs whilst providing more flexibility and choice to employees, it’s a win-win situation.”

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