Invest in Employees with Affordable Health Care

Lack of health insurance isn’t considered one of the major reasons the hospitality industry has, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a churn rate north of 70 percent. A recent survey found that low pay, lack of recognition and bad management are three of the major variables.

But let’s dig a little deeper into “lack of recognition.” To me, that says employees aren’t feeling  valued by the owners and managers of their restaurants. In the current hiring climate, restaurants can’t afford to lose good employees because they feel unappreciated.

I’ve written previously about ways to show employees some love: investing in training, providing opportunities advancement, more reliable scheduling, listening to their ideas. One of the major ways to invest in employees is through health insurance, something only about 30 percent of restaurants provide.

It’s understandable. The more successful of my clients operate on profit margins in the low double digits, but single-digit profit margins are more prevalent in the industry. The main reason is the cost of those benefits and, because such a large number of staff are under 30, there is a lack of participation.

Besides, having already raised prices to account for higher costs of labor and food, owners  are reluctant to raise them even more to cover employee health insurance.

I’ve found a way to address this issue. It gives employees access, not to health insurance, but to health care: telemedicine, now referred to as “digital” or “virtual” health care.

Many of the reasons we go to the doctor can be covered via virtual health care. Employees love that they can see a doctor 24 hours a day, get their prescription immediately and not miss a day of work.

The fact that this covers their entire family is a deal closer for our teams. Many of the employees tell me that they appreciate that mental health is covered as well. My clients pick up 100 percent of the costs and nearly all employees, regardless of age, participate in the program.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, interest and adoption of virtual health care has steadily increased. While these options existed pre-pandemic, they weren't much used because employers often didn’t want to offer access to this type of health care.

Now, employees have come to expect access to virtual care because of immediate access to care versus waiting several weeks to get into a brick-and-mortar facility. And employers who are thinking ahead are adopting virtual health care as a way to care for their employees while lowering the costs associated with absenteeism and turnover.

There are many providers of virtual health care, so it pays to do your homework. In addition to cost, experts recommend looking for vendors that:

  • Have relatively short wait times for doctor “visits” and mental health services;
  • Offer adolescent mental health resources; and
  • Ensure all employees feel welcome using the service by addressing diversity, equity and inclusion.

Small businesses – as most restaurants are – have a tough row to hoe when it comes to providing health-care coverage for their employees. Virtual health care might be just the solution the industry needs.