With many struggling with rising costs and inflation, employers might want to review whether the benefits they offer are currently fit for purpose
by Brian Gorman
With UK inflation currently at 9.9% and gas and electricity bills spiralling, higher pay is “at the forefront of most employees’ minds,” according to an article in People Management magazine by Amrit Sandhar.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, paid overtime is currently the most attractive perk for UK staff, according to an article in Digit News by Graham Turner, which draws on a global study, by HR firm Remote, of 10,000 individuals. Of the UK respondents, 79% identify this as their most desired ‘work perk’, followed by “flexible working hours (77%) and company-sponsored retirement plans (75%)".
But employees want more than just money
The top ten list of perks, according to Turner, includes an early finish on Fridays (65%), a four-day working week (64%), miscarriage leave (62%) and paid self-care days (61%).
This shows that people are not motivated by money alone, but many common benefits have questionable value, including, writes Sandhar in the People Management article, yoga at work or in-work massages which, while sounding great, are of little use if employees are working so hard they “do not get time for adequate breaks and lunch, let alone taking time to access these benefits”.
Another common benefit is discounted gym membership, which “only helps if employees are able to get home on time, and feel energised enough to have the motivation to go to the gym”, writes Sandhar. “For many, the impact of a stressful day with long working hours means the little time left is better spent with the family."
Adapt for different geographies
Another worldwide study by Remote points to the need to adopt different approaches to benefits in different countries.
“In countries where access to healthcare is widely available, redesigning your medical plan to make it more cost effective might make sense,” said Joana Viana, senior expert, benefits strategy, Remote (Spain). “But in markets like the US, where access to healthcare is often tied to employment, this move would be very badly received by employees.”
In the UK, only 38% of respondents see healthcare benefits as essential because of the high standards of the National Health Service, says the Remote study.
In Brazil, parental leave is a concern for male employees. Remote points to a "huge gap in what’s legally mandated for women (120 days) compared to male parents (five days). ... This makes parental leave as a benefit very important for male employees.”
The study recommends that companies look to cut back on fringe and underutilised benefits to weather a downturn.
Meanwhile, a recently published study by Morgan Stanley finds that inflation, uncertainty and a tight labour market are impacting the way employees look at their financial benefits. Employees are recognising that "their needs are not fully addressed", says the associated press release.
More than half (52%) of 1,000 employees surveyed say that working with a financial adviser would be the single most beneficial retirement planning tool for them. But access to a financial adviser only ties for third choice among HR leaders. The report says this demonstrates a disconnect, with “93% of employees viewing retirement planning assistance as a priority when choosing where to work”.
The study finds that 89% of US employees say their companies need to improve on helping them understand how to maximise their financial benefits and 96% of HR leaders agree their company needs to do a better job helping employees maximise the financial benefits offered.
Employees are opening up about personal financial struggles, the study finds, with 84% agreeing that employers should be more involved with helping them through financial challenges – providing an opportunity for employers to build more meaningful connections with their employees.