9 in 10 SME employees want employers to provide medical benefits

Photo by Pixabay

Coverage for in-patient and outpatient medical expenses (“medical benefits”) are an important consideration for most small-and-medium-sized enterprise (SME) employees, with nine in 10 saying that they want their employers to provide healthcare coverage.

This is according to a poll commissioned by Prudential Singapore (“Prudential”) which explores the needs and challenges of SMEs in the area of medical and employee benefits.

Sixty per cent of the 1,029 respondents said that they are more willing to join an SME that provides medical benefits, while almost 40 per cent are more likely to stay in a company that provides the same benefits. Almost half of them see companies that provide medical benefits as a caring employer.

Thirteen per cent of respondents said their company does not offer any medical benefits, and this number doubled (27 per cent) for SMEs with 10 or less employees. SMEs account for 99 per cent of the businesses in Singapore, and they employ 70 per cent of the workforce.

Mr Dennis Tan, CEO, Prudential Singapore, said that medical benefits are essential to employees’ overall wellbeing and success at work.

“Awareness of health and protection has gone up since the pandemic, so understandably, employees value medical benefits and appreciate investments in their wellbeing and future,” said Mr Tan.

“An ageing workforce coupled with rising healthcare costs are also driving employees to want support in the area of medical protection so that they can focus on their work with greater peace of mind.”

Most respondents cited small company size and high cost of group insurance as reasons why their company does not provide medical benefits.

When asked how much budget is set aside for their company’s medical benefits per year, almost two in five SME owners and Human Resource (HR) professionals said $10,000 and below.

Employee benefits also top of mind

SME employees also value flexible benefits such as company-sponsored trainings, e-vouchers, and wellness initiatives (eg. fitness classes), with 85 per cent of them saying employers should consider it a priority to provide such benefits.

However, 34 per cent of respondents said their company does not offer any employee benefits. This number went up to 45 per cent for SMEs with 10 or less employees. Small company size and high costs were noted as the key reasons for why their companies do not provide employee benefits.

SME employees also regard employee benefits to be just as important as medical benefits. Three in five respondents said that they are more willing to join a company that provides employee benefits, and two in five said that they are more willing to stay in a company that provides the same.

SME employees acknowledge need for digitalisation

When asked if they are more willing to stay in a company that prioritises digital transformation, about one in five respondents said that they would, and four in five agreed that digital transformation is an important factor for business survival.

“Digitalisation is crucial in helping SMEs remain competitive and relevant in the digital economy. It empowers businesses to accelerate growth and at the same time, appeals to talents who share this belief and are looking for companies that have started on their digital journey,” said Mr Tan.

However, just 21 per cent of SME employees say that their company is already digital. They face challenges such as lack of talent with digital skills, high cost, and lack of training opportunities to do it effectively.

All is not lost as 64 per cent of SME employees say that their company intends to undergo or is on the road to digital transformation. Steps being taken to digitalise include automation of processes and trainings for employees to enhance their digital skills.

Support for SMEs

There are various initiatives provided by the government as well as private sector companies to help SMEs speed up digitalisation. This could take the form of skills trainings in areas such as cybersecurity, or a comprehensive guide to kickstarting the SME’s digitalisation journey.

One example is the customisable digital commerce playbook launched by Ngee Ann Poly and Prudential which provides SMEs with guidance and practical help on the use of digital technologies.

Prudential has been supporting the needs of SMEs over the years. For example, it offers a range of insurance solutions for SMEs, even those with just three employees. It also provides a corporate wellness programme to encourage SME employees to be more proactive about preventative healthcare to ensure they stay healthier and productive for longer.

This poll was commissioned by Prudential and conducted by Milieu Insight and surveyed 1,029 Singaporean SME employees and business owners aged 18 and above who work in SMEs with 1 to 200 employees. Responses for the online poll were collected in April 2022.