Employees Say Medical Benefits Are a Key Push Factor for Joining SMEs: Regulatory Survey

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Singapore — Employees view medical benefits as a big carrot for joining and staying in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), but many of these companies struggle to offer coverage, citing small size and high cost of group insurance.

Medical benefits cover both inpatient treatment costs and hospital costs and outpatient bills in general practitioner (GP) clinics.

The findings were revealed in a survey commissioned by insurer Prudential Singapore and conducted by market researcher Milieu Insight. A total of 1,029 Singaporean SME employees and business owners were surveyed this month.

You are 18 years and older and work in SMEs with 1 to 200 employees.

The survey showed that not all SMEs provide medical services, with 13 percent of respondents saying their employer falls into this category.

For SMEs with 10 or fewer employees, the number doubles to 27 percent.

SMEs are a major player in Singapore’s economy, accounting for 99 percent of businesses and employing 70 percent of the workforce.

Under the Singapore Employment Act, an employee is entitled to 14 days of sick leave and 60 days of hospital leave if he or she has worked for six months or more.

There is no legal obligation for employers to offer health insurance. Labor Minister Tan See Leng said during a parliamentary debate last year that employers could choose to offer such insurance as an employee benefit.

In the survey, nine out of ten respondents would like their employers to offer health insurance.

About 60 percent of respondents said they would be more willing to join an SME that provides medical services, while nearly 40 percent are more likely to stay with a company that provides such services.

Mr Dennis Tan, chief executive of Prudential Singapore, said that since the pandemic, staff are becoming more conscious of their health and need for insurance coverage.

He added that an aging workforce and rising healthcare costs are making workers value health insurance more.

The necessary protection assures them that their health needs will be met so they can focus on their work, he said.

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