Businesses should introduce more innovative employee benefits to attract and retain the best employees, according to Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing.
Cheryl Brennan (pictured), director of corporate consulting at the employee benefits consultant, said that with an ageing population, an increased focus on mental wellbeing, corporate social responsibility and gender pay reporting, an NHS under strain and an estimated social care funding gap of £1.5bn, the role of the employer in creating solutions to support employees’ needs is greater than ever.
“Having the right employee benefits and wellbeing solutions in place can increase staff loyalty, engagement, support recruitment and reduce business risks,” she said.
Several of the most popular employee benefits are still traditional ones such as a competitive salary, flexible working, a pension and paid leave. Health insurance, private medical insurance, income protection and life insurance are also highly valued.
However, there is now a far greater focus on employee health and wellbeing and many organisations are offering health checks at work or apps that provide virtual GP services 24 hours a day.
Brennan believes mental health will be a major focus area for companies this year, as mental health issues are increasingly being perceived as a major business risk.
Figures from the Centre for Mental Health highlighted that mental health issues are costing UK businesses £34.9bn a year and many employers are increasing their support and implementing mental health strategies.
Whereas previously they may have just had an employee assistance programme (EAP) in place, they are now looking at introducing robust strategies and support, with mental health workshops, mental health training for staff and other technology led solutions.
Another growth area is financial wellbeing. Research from Salary Finance last year showed that 40% of UK employees are worried about money – more so than their health or careers.
Brennan said that by providing workplace financial education, employers can equip employees of all ages with the skills to better manage their finances, make good financial decisions and plan for a more secure retirement.
The move to data-led and personalised benefits will also become increasingly important, particularly in light of the changing workforce demographics, Brennan added.
Employees aged 51 to 74 years now make up a large proportion of the workforce and have different benefits and needs from those in their 20s starting their careers. Older workers may be juggling elderly care, for example, and want more flexible working arrangements.
“As we move forward in 2020, it is clear employee benefits are far more about overall wellbeing and personalisation for the employee,” said Brennan. “There are a wide-range of employee benefits available to organisations today to ensure they are providing staff with the very best support and care, and we would strongly encourage more employers to review their benefits packages and seek professional advice in how to develop the very best employee benefits solutions.”