Employees across the UAE are expecting their health insurance benefits to offer more, with access to mental wellness getting as much attention as the physical side following COVID-19. As high as 66 per cent of employees in a new survey feel their employers should be spending more on health benefits.

But as businesses wrestle with costs and market uncertainties, adding more benefits to their group covers may prove daunting for them. 

In fact, more than 80 per cent of UAE workforce want to see a mix of benefits, as remotely operating “employees battle with issues of isolation and frontline workers face a variety of stress-inducing factors, from increased workloads to personal safety,” says a new survey by Aetna, the insurer.

And 76 per cent are calling for “more comprehensive coverage” in light of the pandemic, with 72 per cent saying mental health should receive such a coverage in group plans. In comparison, 64 per cent are insisting on physical health being assigned comprehensive cover.

“COVID shifted the focus of the individual, and employers need to face up to that when designing their health benefits,” said David Healy, CEO EMEA at Aetna International.

“Of those workers polled, 34 per cent said employers would need to improve health benefits to be attractive to candidates, and 24 per cent said those benefits would directly affect their decision to stay or move on.”

Nursing back to normal

“While there is definite reason for optimism here in the UAE with the availability of vaccines, we know we still have a long road ahead of us,” said Healy. “The study reveals that the pandemic will leave marks, particularly in the area of mental health.

“And it is incumbent on employers to start addressing these issues sooner rather than later.”

  • Around 63% of UAE companies are considering giving employees access to in-person or virtual counselling on mental health.
  • Only 31% of organisations currently provide access to ‘mindfulness’ apps. A further 45% are considering this option.
  • 29% of surveyed organizations currently offer employees gym memberships, but 51% are considering it.
  • 24% now offer nutrition support, while 53% are exploring such an option.