4 November 2014

Coordinating benefit packages and healthcare costs in France: a snapshot of VALEO

Regulatory and legal developments affecting group plans are increasingly constricting for companies. The decree of 01/09/2012 and, more recently, that of 07/08/2014, are ratifying the obligation of companies to set up group plans for so-called “objective” categories.

Building on the movement initiated several years ago, these decrees involve equality of treatment in a broad sense.

In particular, Henner advises companies in their project to coordinate benefit packages and healthcare costs, while respecting new regulations and strong social and financial constraints.

In this context, we assisted the Valeo Group in France in designing and implementing plans that went beyond the abovementioned obligations by providing identical coverage to all the group’s employees.

We are pleased to present an interview of Mr. Dubois, the Valeo Group’s Director of Employee Relations France.

Christophe Lapeyre, Key Account Manager, Henner Group.


Henner: Why did you initiate this project to coordinate your healthcare and benefit plans?

 Alexandre Dubois: “The Valeo Group has more than 13,000 employees in France distributed in 35 facilities and 13 legal entities. These employees were integrated into the group progressively during the company’s life span and, in particular, through successive acquisitions. We undertook to maintain employee benefit packages after each acquisition. Until the end of 2013, we were dealing with 34 different benefit packages and 36 different healthcare plans.

The coordination of healthcare and benefit packages targeted four objectives:

  • Escape the upward spiral of costs for plans that were structurally in the red by setting up a coordinated plan thereby enabling employees to break free of this almost perpetual cycle of premium increases.
  • Provide essential, even generous, coverage, in healthcare and benefits for a price that is affordable for all employees.
  • Guarantee real equality of treatment for all employees. Provide equal access to care (healthcare cost) and cover existing risks (incapacity, disability, and in case of death), no matter what the employee’s professional category (no executive/non-executive distinction), and no matter which site and what company they belong to.

Henner: Who were the parties involved in the preparation phase of this project?

Alexandre Dubois:  There were two separate phases:

  • In an initial stage of the project, a work group composed of HR management companies and HR divisions, along with payroll and personnel administration managers studied the current state of affairs with the support of Henner (situation inventory) then analyzed ways to coordinate the plans.
  • Later, in order to get everyone onboard, Valeo relied strongly on corporate dialog, on the commitment of employee and labor partners, and on the fact that by training them, empowering them and giving them the time and the means to work effectively on this complex technical subject, an interesting solution was bound to emerge.

Due to this negotiation methodology, we went from 70 healthcare and benefit plans to 2 plans (1 for healthcare 1 for benefits) by signing a group agreement with the unanimous support of unions.

Henner: What were the strong points that Henner brought to the table at each stage of the project (audit of existing situation, definition of target plans, financial impact, backing and training of personnel representatives…)?

Alexandre Dubois:  Henner provided Valeo:

  • Perfect knowledge of local issues (the prior history of relations between Henner and Valeo managers was a considerable asset).
  • Structured methodology for analyzing services enabled us to simulate the impact of variations in services on the cost of options.
  • Impeccable quality, commitment and rigor in their work.

Henner: In what respect did the methodology used for defining target plans proposed by Henner encourage the project’s backing by employee partners/stakeholders?

Alexandre Dubois:  Henner’s innovative and efficient methodology in defining target plans was a determining factor for labor and employee partners to back our approach. This methodology structured negotiation, simulating in real time the impact of a variation in services on the cost and, quite simply, making this coordination possible. How could we, without this methodology, compare dozens of services per plan, multiplied by 70 plans? The labor would have been insurmountable and we would not have been up to the challenge.

Henner: What was your communication strategy when the plans were being set up?

Alexandre Dubois:  Henner’s director of communications helped us:

  • Put in place a “mutual insurance and benefits” convention that brought together HR divisions and managers, payroll managers, site union delegates, secretaries of the central company committee (French CCE), work committees (French CE) and the committees of hygiene, safety and work conditions (French CHSCT), i.e. nearly 200 persons so that they could be informed and receive training about these subjects. The meeting of HR members and employee partners in the same one-day convention fundamentally brought together positions and minds. From seventy different plans, we advanced through the day to two coordinated plans.
  • Writing and circulating a healthcare cost and benefits manual, around fifteen pages in length, to explain the changes in a very instructive way, with details of services, costs…

Henner: How did this project fit into your group HR Policy?

Alexandre Dubois:  Valeo’s HR policy strongly underscores the respect and promotion of diversity as a necessary condition for living and working together, which enables each employee to feel they have room to grow at work and thereby contribute efficiently to the business flow. Moreover, in France, taking into consideration the diversity of our facilities (35) and our companies (12), the HRD seeks, on specific subjects, to coordinate employee status when it is pertinent. Given this two-fold feature (live together better and coordinate employee status), the project of setting up one health insurance plan and one benefit package was a good fit with Valeo’s HR policy.

Henner: This project enabled you to implement a single benefit and healthcare plan that meets the needs of all personnel without distinction of rank. After nine months of implementation, what is your initial assessment?

Alexandre Dubois: We met our objectives. Our insurance and benefit plans are no longer in the red. The year 2015 should not see any increase in premiums for the first time in years. Coverage adapted to each family household has enabled a good distribution of employees among the different options offered (individual or family for mutual insurance / basic plan, option 1 or option 2 for mutual insurance or other benefits). The fact that these plans are egalitarian (no difference between executives, technicians and workers) has also been a factor contributing to social harmony and to satisfying unions, which are strongly against this type of treatment, and seek greater social justice.

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Christophe LAPEYRE

About Christophe LAPEYRE

Consultant sénior et Manager équipe commerciale Grands Comptes Après avoir été consultant au sein de la société Mercer de 1993 à 2011, Christophe occupe actuellement la fonction de consultant sénior et manager d'une équipe commerciale Grands Comptes au sein du Groupe Henner.

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