Bupa is now offering its business customers access to a DNA testing service that can reveal health risks and dietary needs for cheaper insurance. But some employees may view this as overstepping the boundary between their personal and professional life.
The popularity of consumer DNA testing has soared recently. This is due to technological advancements that have made this service cheap enough to be affordable to the public.
The global market is expected to grow, being largely dominated by a few players such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe. These tests are largely used to reveal information about an individual’s ethnicity and background, and to identify potential relatives. However, tests can also be used to gain insight into an individual’s potential health risks and predispositions to certain behaviours.
Bupa has begun offering its SmartDNA test to businesses as an enhancement to a Bupa health assessment. The DNA test can reveal any food sensitivities an individual may have, how their body responds to exercise, any injury predispositions, and how an individual deals with stress. Employees also receive a call from a health and wellbeing coach to go through their results and highlight any beneficial lifestyle changes they should make.
The introduction of this service comes at a time when employers are recognising the need to promote wellbeing among their employees. According to GlobalData’s 2018 UK SME Insurance Survey, 71% of SMEs believe they should play an active role in supporting their employees’ physical health and wellbeing, while 76% believe the same regarding their employees’ mental health and wellbeing.
However, there is still concern among consumers about the use of their private data. GlobalData’s 2018 General Insurance Consumer Survey found “sharing too much information” and “privacy concerns” are top reasons deterring consumers from wearing an activity tracker and sharing data with their private insurance provider. If sharing fitness data is a concern for consumers, then allowing a provider to examine their genetic composition will surely also be an issue.
In addition, the security of that data – and who it is shared with – will also be of concern to individuals, especially in light of Bupa’s recent £175,000 fine after an employee of the company stole 500,000 customer records and attempted to sell them on the dark web.
Although it is true that employee health and wellbeing should be a priority for employers, there is always going to be a balance between providing tailored individual support and becoming too involved in someone’s personal life.
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