Clicks CEO David Kneale. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Clicks CEO David Kneale. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

Clicks CEO David Kneale has urged South African retailers to do more to provide health cover for their lower-paid workers, arguing this will raise productivity and improve staff retention.

Only 8.87-million people belonged to medical schemes at the end of 2016, according to the Council for Medical Schemes.

The figure has remained largely flat for several years despite population growth, as medical scheme premiums have remained too costly for most households.

"We encourage other companies to show their commitment to improving access to quality healthcare for their employees by funding their healthcare benefits. Collectively, corporate SA can play a meaningful role in reducing the pressure on the overburdened state healthcare system," said Kneale.

Health and beauty products retailer Clicks plans to spend R31m in 2019 to provide a Discovery health insurance product to 9,200 employees earning less than R14,000 a month who cannot afford medical scheme cover, he said. Clicks employs about 15,000 staff and those on higher salaries are required to join a medical scheme.

Improved productivity

Many Clicks employees who depended on the public sector had to take a day off work every time they needed to visit a clinic for their primary healthcare needs, said Kneale. Providing them with access to private sector providers would reduce absenteeism and improve productivity, he said.

Clicks also believed the health insurance benefit would make the company a more attractive place to work and reduce staff turnover, which in turn would translate into better customer care, he said.

Clicks will offer its lower-paid staff cover with Discovery’s Primary Care, a health insurance product that provides members with a limited basket of care compared to the richer benefits medical schemes are obliged to provide in terms of the Medical Schemes Act.

It includes consultations with a network of private sector general practitioners, dentists and optometrists, medication for 27 chronic conditions, pathology, radiology and emergency private hospital cover for trauma.

Health insurance products have to be registered with the Council for Medical Schemes, but are exempt from the Medical Schemes Act’s provisions stipulating the minimum benefits that schemes must provide.

Discovery said there had been rapid uptake of its Primary Care offering, which covered almost 20,000 employees. It expected another 60,000 employees to join during the next six to nine months.

kahnt@businesslive.co.za

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