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Do Employees Pay For Their Own Health Insurance In The UK?

Matt Hall

May 12, 2024

Do employees pay for their own health insurance in the UK? The simple answer is – sometimes, yes. Many employers offer private health insurance as part of their employee benefits package, where the employer covers some or all of the costs. However, employees may also need to contribute through payroll deductions, co-pays or by choosing enhanced coverage options.

In the UK, we’re fortunate to have the National Health Service (NHS) providing comprehensive healthcare coverage to all residents. But even with the NHS, there are situations where people opt for additional private medical insurance (PMI) offered by employers or purchased individually. This supplemental coverage can provide quicker access to private healthcare, private hospital treatment, and other benefits beyond what the NHS offers.

So, how does employee health insurance work in the UK job market? Let’s explore the typical arrangements, costs involved, and factors to consider when making decisions about your health coverage.

Key Takeaways

  • Companies provide private medical cover as a perk to get and keep good staff. It also saves on taxes.
  • If you’re self-employed or own a small business, you may also be eligible for a group scheme.

Do Employees Pay for Health Insurance in the UK?

In the UK, companies are not legally required to provide health insurance to their employees. However, many employers still choose to offer health insurance plans as an employment perk to attract and keep good workers.

There are a few typical situations when it comes to who pays for the health insurance costs:

  • Some employers cover the full cost of a basic health insurance plan as part of the employee’s overall compensation package. In these cases, the employee does not pay anything out of pocket.
  • Other employers require employees to pay a portion of the health insurance costs. This is usually done through payroll deductions, in which some money gets taken out of each paycheck before taxes. Paying this way provides some tax savings for the employee.
  • If an employee wants a higher level of cover beyond just the basic health insurance plan offered, they often must pay extra fees for those enhanced treatment options out of their own pocket.

There are also situations where the employee bears full responsibility for the health insurance premium amount themselves. This can happen if the employer simply provides access to a health plan but does not contribute any money towards it. Or if the employee chooses to purchase their own private, individual health insurance policy separate from their job benefits.

So, in many workplace scenarios, UK employees end up paying at least some of the costs for their health insurance coverage unless their employer fully covers a basic plan as part of the overall compensation.

Cost Breakdown for Employee Health Insurance in the UK

Understanding Cost-sharing Models

Most employer health plans in the UK involve some level of cost-sharing between the company and employees. The exact split depends on factors like:

  • The specific insurance policy chosen
  • The employee’s position, salary level and tenure
  • Whether the plan covers just the employee or includes family members too

A common model is for the employer to fully cover a basic health plan while employees pay extra for higher tiers of more comprehensive coverage or additional family members through payroll deductions.

Factors Influencing Costs in the UK

The costs for employer health plans can vary based on the industry, geographic region, and details of the employment contract. For example:

  • Certain sectors like finance or technology tend to offer richer health benefits to attract top talent.
  • Premiums may be higher in areas with a higher cost of living.
  • Long-tenured or executive-level employees often receive more generous health coverage.

So, an employee’s health insurance costs can fluctuate based on the type of company they work for, where they live, and their role and time with the employer.

Sector-specific Examples

To illustrate how costs can differ, let’s look at some examples across industries:

  • Retail: Entry-level employees may just receive basic employer-paid coverage, while managers could pay modest amounts for enhanced family plans.
  • Healthcare: It’s common for healthcare employers to provide very robust health benefits with minimal employee contributions, given the nature of the industry.
  • Tech: Comprehensive health packages are typical recruitment tools, though employees may still split premium costs for premium plan options.

The key takeaway? Health insurance costs for UK employees can span a wide range depending on their specific employment situation and plan selection.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance

Advantages for Different Stakeholders

For Employees:

  • Group health plans are usually cheaper than buying individual private coverage on your own
  • Your employer typically pays either all or a big portion of the insurance premium costs
  • The amount you pay towards premiums gets deducted from your salary before income tax, providing tax savings

For Employers:

  • Offering attractive benefits helps attract and keep valued employees from leaving for other jobs
  • Buying insurance as a group allows companies to negotiate lower premium rates than individuals
  • Healthy, insured employees tend to be more productive and have fewer absences, boosting the business

For Job Seekers:

  • A generous employer health plan can make one job offer seem much better than another
  • It’s important to look at the full package – health coverage plus salary when evaluating job opportunities

Potential Limitations

While employer health plans provide good range of benefits, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider:

  • The coverage may not be as comprehensive as higher-tier individual private medical insurance policies
  • You can’t customise the employer plan based on your personal health needs or negotiate details
  • If you leave or lose your job, you also lose access to that health insurance immediately
  • Your choice of doctors/hospitals is limited to just the insurance provider’s approved network

While very valuable, employer health plans also involve some restrictions and lack of flexibility compared to purchasing individual coverage on your own. It’s wise to assess if the employer option meets your health needs.

Decision-Making Guidance on Health Insurance in the UK

Choosing the Right Health Insurance Option

As an employee, you may have choices when it comes to your workplace health coverage. It’s important to carefully evaluate your options and potential costs.

For example, your employer might offer:

  • A basic plan they pay for completely
  • More comprehensive plans where you split the premium costs
  • The ability to add family members by paying extra

Ask HR for details on what your employer provides and the costs for each option. Things to consider include:

  • Your typical medical needs and costs
  • Whether your preferred doctors/hospitals are included
  • If you want coverage for special items like physiotherapy or maternity

For employers offering benefits, the right health package attracts good employees while fitting your business budget. Factors to weigh include:

  • The level of coverage your workforce needs and values
  • Cost-sharing strategies like employee premium contributions
  • Adding health extras like wellness programs

Freelancers or self-employed individuals need to purchase their own private healthcare policies. Shop around and compare offerings from major insurance providers.

Questions to Ask and Where to Find Information

Whether you’re an employee, employer, or self-employed, it’s crucial to get all the facts before making health coverage decisions. Prepare a list of specific questions, such as:

  • What is the complete premium cost, and what is my share?
  • What doctor/hospital networks are included?
  • Are there any coverage exclusions for pre-existing conditions?
  • What are the policy limits for things like therapies or medical equipment?
  • Are optional extras available to add additional coverage, such as dental treatment or vision coverage?

Gather information directly from your employer’s HR department or insurance providers. You can also consult health insurance experts or financial advisors to ensure you fully understand the terms.

The key is being an informed health insurance consumer – whether the healthcare plan is sponsored by your employer or you’re securing individual coverage. With the right information, you can make the best decision for your circumstances.

What Can You Do Next?

Understanding employee health insurance costs can feel confusing. That’s why getting personalised, expert advice is so important.

If you’re an employee, your next step is talking to your company’s HR department. They can explain:

  • The different health plan options your employer offers
  • How much you may need to pay for each plan
  • Exactly what medical treatments and services are covered

If you’re self-employed or own a small business, you may be more suited to an individual plan, please contact us to discuss your options. 

Don’t go at it alone! Our friendly insurance experts can guide you. We’ll listen to your situation and advise you on health coverage solutions that provide great value.

Reach out today for a free, personalised consultation. With our help, you can feel confident you’re getting the right level of health insurance at the best possible price.


Do employers provide health insurance in the UK?

Employers in the UK are not legally required to provide health insurance to employees. However, many companies choose to offer private medical insurance as an employment benefit. This helps attract and retain good staff.

Who pays for health insurance in the UK?

In many cases, employers and employees share the costs of private health insurance through the workplace. Some employers fully cover basic plans, while employees pay portions of premiums for more comprehensive coverage.

Is employee insurance mandatory in the UK?

No, it is not mandatory for UK employers to provide health insurance to their employees. Companies can decide whether to offer private medical insurance as an optional employment benefit.

Do employers pay employees National Insurance?

Yes, employers are required to pay National Insurance contributions for their employees in the UK. This helps fund the National Health Service (NHS) and state benefits.

Is it mandatory to have health insurance in the UK?

No, having private health insurance is not legally mandatory for individuals living in the UK. However, residents do pay National Insurance contributions, which entitle them to healthcare coverage under the NHS.

Is health insurance in the UK free?

Basic healthcare provided through the NHS is free at the point of use for UK residents. However, some opt for supplemental private health insurance to access additional benefits like private hospitals and private treatments.

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