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Established in 1971, Cure Kids is a registered charity that invests millions of dollars every year into child health research. Their goal - to find cures and better treatments for serious illnesses and health conditions that are affecting children in New Zealand, and around the world.

As an organisation which depends on community support to save and improve children's lives, Cure Kids strives to foster a healthy culture for its team members and operate as an efficient, tightly run operation. So when Chief Executive Frances Benge came on board in 2015, she was concerned at what appeared to be an unusually high rate of sick leave among staff. As well as imposing a heavy workload on those staying at work, the situation was having a financial impact on Cure Kids through lost work days.

Frances was concerned about the factors which were driving a generally unhealthy work-place culture; and that there was a previously introduced policy that enabled staff to take unlimited sick leave. Frances had a challenge on her hands: how to encourage her team to look after their health without causing offence or a personal financial burden; and how to reverse the sick leave policy without worsening the situation further.

Then a Southern Cross account manager came to present us with a generous cheque, the result of a staff fundraising campaign, she says. We had a chat, and suddenly the answer was clear.

Putting a stake in the ground

Having been a member of a subsidised Southern Cross scheme herself, Frances understood the benefits of workplace health insurance. Her next step was to sell the idea to the Cure Kids Board.

With Southern Cross's help we put together a proposal to offer fully subsidised health insurance, including coverage of pre-existing conditions, and reverse the sick leave policy, she says. In doing so, I believed we could halve the number of sick leave days taken within a year. The Board accepted Frances's proposal, and in December 2015 Cure Kids offered Southern Cross health insurance to everyone on the team. It selected an insurance plan, which covered eligible surgery and related expenses, together with an optional module, included cover for flu vaccinations, prescriptions, GP visits, and hearing, vision, and dental consultations. Employees and their families were offered the opportunity to upgrade at their own cost, if they wished.

We were delighted, and while we've yet to do a formal assessment, I'm confident that by year's end we'll have achieved our goal of halving the number of sick days taken. What's more, our culture is changing: our people are feeling more valued and supported in their work, and having health insurance is providing peace of mind for those with health concerns. Prior to this initiative many may have not been proactive about seeking health advice due to affordability. And the benefits in partnering with Southern Cross are not solely due to the providing of health insurance for staff, but the wrap around packages that Southern Cross delivers in terms of support initiatives, assisting us in the achievement of a healthier workplace culture. says Frances.

A power for good

For Michelle Hornblow, Cure Kids' Database and IT Manager, the health insurance, which Cure Kids were able to offer their staff, has brought an end to more than five years of severe, but sporadic, abdominal pain that went largely untreated.

After a particularly bad episode and an overnight stay in Auckland Hospital, she learned that she had a large cyst on her ovary that would require surgery. Fortunately, her Southern Cross insurance policy enabled her to avoid the potentially long public waiting list, and within just a few days she'd had her operation. Today she's pain free, and deeply thankful for the Cure Kids workplace scheme.

The operation cost about $10,000 and all I had to pay was $50, she says. It was a huge relief to get it done so quickly, and the claim process couldn't have been easier - I did most of it on the mobile app!

A positive outlook

Health insurance is just one asset in Cure Kids' portfolio of health and wellness investments. The organisation also offers posture assessments and flexible working arrangements, encourages walking and standing meetings, supports fitness challenges, and provides access to on-site (employee-paid) massages once a month. In addition, its relationship with Southern Cross enables it to access a range of health and wellness tools and resources.

Together, says Frances, these initiatives support Cure Kids' commitment to its staff and are helping in the development of a positive workforce and a more productive workplace. They also send signals to the organisation's sponsors and business partners that it's serious about its employee and governance responsibilities.

We're super happy with the Southern Cross scheme and the support that Southern Cross provides, she says. While we still have some work to do, we're well on the way to being the organisation we want to be - and we couldn't have done it without them.

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