19 September 2017

The Rise of Private Medical

The Rise of Private Medical 

"Profit driven hospital firms are experiencing 15-25% year on year rises in 'uninsured' self payers, mainly driven by long wait times for non-urgent surgery."
- Intuition Communications research  

When I came across this information in The Guardian I was amazed at the increase in numbers in people paying their own way for private medical treatment. The costs referenced in the article varied from £1,850 at the lower end to £14,880 at the higher.

At the same time, the latest official NHS performance stats reveal more than 4 million patients are waiting to be admitted to hospital in England to have surgery, the highest number in 10 years. So I guess you can see that people are getting fed-up and going down the self payer route. 

I wanted to look in to how this impacts employers, as it would be reasonable to assume that there are a large number of people either hindered at work or off work completely waiting for treatment. 

Nearly a third of fit notes issued by GPs are for psychiatric problems, says an NHS report.

This makes them the most common reason for people to take time off work, ahead of musculoskeletal diseases. There was a 14% rise in notes relating to anxiety and stress between 2015-16 and 2016-17. 

The Royal College of Psychiatrists said the findings were "alarming" and pointed to a need for more to be done to help get people back to work.

Furthermore, musculoskeletal* issues are another of the biggest causes of health at work issues, with 44% of employers citing musculoskeletal injuries as one of the top causes of absence, according to Simplyhealth. 

*Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are injuries or pain in the human musculoskeletal system, including the joints, ligaments, muscles, nerves, tendons, and structures that support limbs, neck and back.

With these issues being on the rise, and the treatment only coming after longer and longer wait times this must have a significant negative impact on the employees first and foremost, and the business after that. 

A reduction in moral and engagement can be damaging to both an individual employee and to the wider team, not to mention the more obvious direct impact of having a valued employee off work. 

The UK’s largest annual survey of sickness absence rates and costs shows that sickness absence was an average of 2.8% of working time per annum, or 6.5 days per employee, during 2014.

This translates to a total averaged cost of £16 billion per year.

XpertHR’s research findings are based on data provided by 670 organisations covering just under two million employees, making it the largest survey of its type at this time.

What the above doesn't reveal is what proportion of these employers offered their people private medical insurance. It would stand to reason that if employees receive treatment sooner, they will be able to return to health and work sooner. 

What are the costs involved?

Private medical insurance costs from £200 to £1,500 per employee depending on factors such as the level of cover, the employee’s age, location, claims experience and scheme size.

If you would like to know more about Private Medical insurance please get in touch. 


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14 September 2017

GDPR: It affects pay and benefits

General Data Protection Regulation – it affects pay and benefits.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission intend to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the European Union.

Although on 29 March 2017 Prime Minister Theresa May triggered article 50, dictating that by 29 March 2019 Britain will leave the EU, between these two dates (25 May 2018) GDPR will take effect.

This means that GDPR will affect SME’s in the UK and compliance will be required. (Potentially with hefty penalties levied if not)

Furthermore, on 21 June 2017 the UK Government revealed its legislative programme for the coming two years. The Government confirmed its intention to bring the EU General Data Protection Regulation (the “GDPR”) into UK law, ensuring the country’s data protection framework is “suitable for our new digital age, allowing citizens to better control their data.”

All in all, it is happening and everybody needs to be ready.

Why is GDPR being introduced?

The current legislation, The Data Protection Act, was introduced in 1998, practically a lifetime ago (You may employ people who weren’t born).

In 1998:

Titanic was the highest grossing movie.

Celine Dion sold the most singles.

The FDA approved Viagra.

Google was founded.

The Euro didn’t even exist.

Jump forward nigh on 20 years and the world has changed somewhat. With the increase in data held, and the looming threat of cyber attacks, it is no wonder the EU is introducing more appropriate regulation governing how companies hold, protect and share personal data.

So what does this mean for SME’s?

Natasha Jones, Director of Legal Services at Effective Law Group, says:

‘Historically, HR departments may only have had held personnel files, now they are likely to have a huge amount of employee data held digitally, including activity on smart phones, tablets and even wearable technology.

I expect that in many cases neither the employees nor their employers have a grasp on how much is held and how it is used. It is vital that employers get firm grasp of the information they hold, and simultaneously how they share data with third parties like employee benefits advisers, and pension advisers in light of auto enrolment.’

As a result all employers, no matter their size, should act.

1. Examine existing practices and information held.

2. Assess what data to hold moving forward and how to hold it.

3. Review the way existing staff and future employees agree to share data. Clearly drafted comprehensive privacy  notices may be required.*

*This may mean seeking legal advice

How does this impact pay and benefits?

In the future it is likely that employees will have to opt in to employee benefits and allow their data to be shared, rather than being automatically included.

In my view this increases the need for communication with employees to highlight the merits of any benefits you may offer, and to identify what benefits they would value most.

With out undertaking this step you may find uptake of your offering diminishes and as a result the positive good will you intend to generate my be lost.

At Populo we are introducing a secure portal to enable the encrypted transfer of data between client and adviser (and vice versa), along with secure document storage to ensure our clients can be confident their employees personal data is secure and appropriately handled.

We also have in house researches ready help you gain insight in to your employees preference to put you in good stead to deliver an effective employee benefits program.


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7 September 2017

Practical Employee Engagement


Practical Employee Engagement for SME's

Employee engagement is vital to the long term success of a business. High staff turnover, loss of your best employees, and low productivity all damage a business and drain resources. People are after all a company's greatest asset, and to attract and retain the best people, companies must offer an engaging experience. 

But what exactly do we mean by employee engagement?  It's one of those buzz terms that gets banded about without proper definition. 

Wikipedia defines it succinctly as:

Employee engagement is a property of the relationship between an organisation and it's employees. An 'engaged employee' is defined as one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organisations reputation and interests.

An organization with "high" employee engagement might therefore be expected to outperform those with "low" employee engagement. 

According to Gallup, worldwide employee engagement is a staggeringly low 15%.

Most discussion and advice on employee engagement, to me, seems to be targeted at huge corporations with lots of people and financial resources. While they're important, total employment in SMEs was 15.7 million in the UK in 2016, making up 60% of all private sector employment (figures obtained from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills).

I believe there's huge scope for SME's to introduce employee engagement and to benefit from a more productive workforce.

As millennials form more and more of the workforce, the relationship between employers and employees is changing. Employee experience emerged as a top priority in organisations as a way to recruit and retain top talent, improve customer and employee satisfaction, and increase overall performance. 

As Deloitte's 2017 Global Human Capital Trends states: 

In a digital world with increasing transparency and the growing influence of Millennials, employees expect a productive, engaging, enjoyable work experience. Rather than focus narrowly on employee engagement and culture, organizations are developing an integrated focus on the entire employee experience, bringing together all the workplace, HR, and management practices that impact people on the job.

A new marketplace of pulse feedback tools, wellness and fitness apps, and integrated employee self-service tools is helping HR departments understand and improve this experience. 

But what can a small to medium enterprise do to try and understand and improve employee engagement?

Our five basic steps:

1. Define what do you want to achieve. It may seem like a daft question, but it's so often missed and is integral to success. As an employer you must define your company values in order that you can live up to them. Furthermore, you must define what you want to discover in and encourage from your workforce. 

2. Find out what your people think. Use an anonymous survey, to gather quantitative feedback and/or discussion groups for qualitative back up and more fleshed out responses. This feedback will give you a baseline from which you plan your future approach. 

3. Find out what your people value. Part of developing the working environment and moving towards improving more engaged employees is establishing what they value. This can cover everything from the basis of remuneration, the benefits and perks available, health, flexibility, input, autonomy, education and appreciation. 

4. Implement your improved approach. Start to evolve the way that you treat and interact with your staff to move your organisation toward the approach and values your employees want. 

5. Monitor and manage. An annual survey is a token gesture and does not live the values of a company who claims to be motivated by engaging their people.  Managers need tools to consistently deliver and stimulate employees. Undertaking regular pulse surveys, one question per week or three once a month, provide a continual stream of information enabling you to keep on top of your employees views and let them know you are maintaining an interest in their continued engagement.  

The culmination of this is simple - what is good for your employees is good for your business. 

So, if you value your employees why not take steps to learn about them and how engaged they are at work. 


Populo are independent financial advisers who specialise in working with companies to implement staff benefits solutions and improve employee recruitment and retention. We have qualified in-house researchers who conduct both quantitative surveys and qualitative research to ensure that we can put together an offering that will be valued by your employees. 

If you'd like to know more, we'd love to hear from you:

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16 August 2017

Auto Enrolment | The State of Play

Auto Enrolment | The State of Play

  • By the end of March 2017 more than 7,000,000 workers had been successfully automatically enrolled.….and more than 500,000 employers had completed their declaration of compliance.
  • ~
  • There are 700,000 employers with duties by February 2018.
  • ~
  • Between 2016-17 The Pension Regulator issued 12,181 £400 fixed penalty notices.

Headline from The Pension Regulator:

Staff need to be enrolled before they can opt out:

As outlined in their latest compliance and enforcement bulletin, during the inspections they have been carrying out across the country they came across a number of instances where employees had agreed to opt staff out of a workplace pension before they’d been enrolled.

If employers do this, it means they are not complying with their duties in the correct way and may risk a fine if they appear to be making the decision to opt out on behalf of their staff. Eligible staff need to be enrolled first – they can only opt out if they wish to after being enrolled.

Case Study:

This London-based car hire company had a staging date in January 2016. They sent a letter to their staff, telling them they’d soon be automatically enrolled, and that if they wanted to opt out ahead of this time they should sign and return the form.

In early April of this year we carried out an inspection as part of our compliance validation drive. They had claimed to have zero workers, but our intelligence suggested otherwise.

The employer claimed that ill health, financial difficulties and bad advice from their accountant had contributed to their failure to comply. Their accountant had drawn up the letter that was sent to employees, with a tear-off slip asking them to fill it in if they wanted to opt out.

As the employer had failed to put any of their staff into a pension scheme, we sent them a compliance notice, warning them that we would ne them unless they quickly put things right.

Six weeks later they sent us proof of their compliance, the letters they’d sent to their staff and confirmation that they’d automatically enrolled the 13 people who were eligible. They also provided evidence that they’d backdated over a year’s worth of contributions to their original staging date, and were finally compliant on 8 June 2017.

What does the future hold?

Re-enrolment and Re-declaration

As Auto Enrolment started back in October 2012, the number of companies coming up to their 3-year anniversary is on the rise:

More than 80,0000 employers are approaching their re-declaration deadline over the summer months.

Increased Contributions

As of April 2018 both the employer and employee contributions will rise:

Phase       DurationEmployer Minimum ContributionTotal minimum contribution

  To 5 April 2018

  6 April 2018 to 5   April 2019


6 April 2019

If you require any support on re-declaration, new auto enrolment schemes or managing the increase in contributions please get in touch:


0333 222 4450

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31 May 2017

5 Reasons to conduct employee surveys

5 Reasons to conduct employee surveys

“Research can shed light on issues we didn’t even know existed,and can raise questions we hadn’t realised needed asking”.

Terry Freedman

Employees are the most important resource for a company and as a result, how employees are treated and how much they value working for you will massively impact how the company performs.

Personal development, work/life balance, remuneration, diversity, health, and work environment are all issues responsible employers need to address to ensure a happy and motivated workforce.

As a SME, under pressure financially, you might think undertaking research would be a ‘nice to have’, a luxury which you can’t prioritise. Below are five reasons we believe you should take the plunge...

So how do you know what your employees think? 

Conducting an employee survey is a key way of gathering insight into what is important to your employees.

  1. Measure Employee Engagement: As we touched on in our ‘Good Mental Health at Work’ article, 23 May, the correlation between staff wellbeing/motivation and business performance is commonly known as ‘employee engagement’. The primary reason for issuing a survey is to measure the current engagement level of your employees. Finding out what your employees think and what they value is crucial information to support the company's future approach to advancement, recognition, pay & benefits, training, and work environment.
  2. Give Employees a Voice: A crucial part of a good survey is to give your employees the opportunity to give you open feedback. This establishes two-way communication and gives your employees a direct line of communication to the management team. This voice, and the subsequent involvement in the companies planning process, make employees realise they have a stake in the company and that their views matter.
  3. Increase Employee Engagement: Having assessed how engaged your employees are, you can then look to use this as a benchmark and put in place an action plan to increase engagement. The survey will highlight your strengths and weaknesses, giving you a solid foundation moving forward.
  4. Focus Your Growth Strategy: Having an insight into how well your company performs in areas such as employee engagement, effective leadership and work environment, give you tangible objectives for positive change. As your company grows, minimising staff turnover and retaining great employees will be the foundation on which success can be built.
  5. Evaluate Against Your Benchmark: The results of your first survey set the benchmark. Moving forward you can track your progress with a point of comparison, giving you tangible information to clearly identify if the actions you are taking are meeting your objectives, or if in fact you are spending time and money in the wrong places.

Whom should you survey? 

Make an effort to survey all employees. It shows that you value everyone’s opinion, whether they are part of the management team or front-line employees. In doing this you will get a clearer picture of your organisations strengths and weaknesses from your employees perspective.

How to do it? 

At Populo we have Sarah, our in-house Research Director, who has worked in research for over 10 years and holds the MRS (Market Research Society) Advanced Certificate. 

Sarah works with employers to conduct research on their behalf, you may have some things to learn. Research is concerned with increasing understanding. You may think you are the best person to know what’s best for your business, and you probably are, but you are also not only busy running your business, but extremely close to it. Using Populo, as external independent researchers will give you the bigger picture.

Moreover, it’s probably cheaper than you think. Often an online staff survey can get the job done and a project like that would cost in the region of £400.

Over and above such surveys we can undertake research with your customers or potential customers. Whether your business and brand, your service, your competitors, or new product development/testing, we can help you establish if you are heading in the right direction.

If you’d like to know more about our research services please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you:

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