The world of employee benefits never stands still. The pandemic hastened developments, and there has never been more choice. The dilemma is which ones should employers offer their staff? The most important thing is to make them relevant, targeted and personalised to your own particular workforce.

As one leading HR Director says: ‘Personalised offerings provide a greater sense of connection between the employee and the organisation.’

Workforce demographics

To do this, it’s important to have a handle on the particular demographics of your workforce. This is as relevant for small employers as it is for large. Consider age, gender, lifestyle, whether or not they have dependants: this can all give an indication as to which benefits might be most relevant.

For instance, advice on pensions investments is likely to be different for a younger workforce than an older one.

But it’s also important not to make assumptions. Life assurance may typically appeal to older employees, but younger employees with financial commitments are also likely to see the advantages. Private Medical Insurance (PMI) may be utilised more heavily by older employees, but research shows it’s also viewed as one of the most valuable employee benefits across a workforce.

Ask, ask and ask again

Running an employee survey can be a great way to find out what really excites your employees.

If you find that support for fitness, health and wellbeing is really important to them, then that can be a great starting point to look at the options. It doesn’t have to mean gold-plated PMI across the board, in practice it might mean offering access to cycle-to-work schemes, fitness apps or discounted physio: benefits that are very affordable but highly valued.

It’s really valuable to run a survey again after benefits have been implemented to measure understanding and appreciation.

Engagement is good for business

Engaging employees with benefits helps to engage them with the company, and that’s good for business. Research shows that engaged employees are more likely to stay with the organisation, perform 20 per cent better than their colleagues and act as advocates of the business.

A good measurement of engagement with employee benefits is to look at the utilisation of them. Is the employee assistance programme (EAP) accessed, are helplines used, have employees increased their pension contributions?

Utilisation is a really good sign that benefits are relevant.

However, poor utilisation is not necessarily an indication that they’re not. It might well be the case that employees just don’t know about the benefits on offer or how to access them.

Communicate the relevance

We’re experts at communicating the detail of employee benefits, bringing them to life, and explaining the relevance to different demographics.

We can explain the impact of increasing pension contributions; the importance of reviewing pension investment options; the relevance of life assurance/critical illness/income protection at different life stages; how to get the most value from health and wellbeing benefits; and – vitally – how to access them.

Hearing from experts can make all the difference to staff. Whether via webinar, intranet, flyers or other – targeted communications can demonstrate the value to each individual.

Personalised

When employees see the personal relevance of the benefits that they’re offered, they not only feel more engaged with the benefit, they feel more engaged with their employer too. And this increases their value to both.

The right employee benefits support retention and engagement, and it can support recruitment too.

Sixty per cent of people report that benefits are a major factor in considering whether to accept a job offer. So if you’re looking to recruit a particular demographic, then a good place to start is to look at the benefits that are going to attract them.

Relevant, targeted and personalised employee benefits are key differentiators for employers of choice.

Our friends at MetLife have recently conducted some research amongst employers and employees to understand any gaps in expectations between the two in a post Covid 19 world.

The research conducted has flagged some very interesting issues that employers need to consider in a post Covid world, the first being around the relationship between employers and employees.

Both employers (72%) and employees (62%) believe that the pandemic has changed the relationship that the two parties have with each other with nearly 1 in 3 employees feeling that their relationship with their employer has weakened. This can be further broken down to certain age groups and gender with 42% of females aged 30-49 feeling that their employer is less supportive of their wider family related needs, perhaps linked to childcare care or later life care arrangements with 33% of males aged 18-29 expressing a weaker relationship perhaps due to lack of social interaction and collaboration with their peers.

Any breakdown or lessening in trust is clearly going to affect productivity and motivation amongst employees and therefore employers need to try and get a handle on these issues before they potentially escalate to a stage where it is irreversible. If the horse has bolted from the stable and there is a breakdown in trust, employees will likely choose to seek employment elsewhere and find an employer with whom they can place their trust. This has obviously cost implications for the current employer.

A massive 68% of employees feel that ‘companies who care will attract the best talent’ and this is backed up by the views of employers with 66% of them agreeing with this statement. Its great that everyone is on the same page and this synergy allows employers to work with employees to understand what they define as ‘caring’. For different people this will mean different things and there is certainly no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

Collaboration between employers and employees around employee benefits has likely to have never been so important with 63% of employers revealing that they have seen an increase in queries from employees about benefits since the pandemic began. 69% of employees ‘will work harder for an employer who provides employee benefit that supports my individual needs’ with the most sought after benefits in descending order being:

  1. Pension
  2. Income Protection
  3. Health Screenings
  4. Critical Illness Insurance
  5. Private Medical Insurance
  6. Life Assurance

To me this feedback suggests that the priorities of employees may have changed due to the pandemic with financial security and general health being high on the agenda. It appears employees want to protect themselves against the ‘worst’ happening and therefore if an employer can provide this peace of mind, giving assurances to an employee and their families, surely this can only be positive and will undoubtedly prove that an employer is a caring one.

As the title of this blog suggests, doing nothing does not really seem like a viable option and as the very least a review of what employees want should be undertaken to try, where possible, to match their needs. Wingate Benefit Solutions can provide a free employee benefits review at no financial cost to an employer and if this is of interest, please feel free to contact the team at Wingate on either 01883 332260 or at info@wingatebs.com

Source:

The Re:Me research was conducted in August 2020 by MetLife to examine the changing relationship between employers and employees, to reveal the values, expectations and priorities that are important to both sides and where the gaps lie in a Covid-19 world and beyond. It was a nationally representative, online, quantitative study among 900 employees (450 of both SME and Corporate organisations) and 300 employers (150 of both SME and Corporate organisations). Corporates have been defined as those with 500+ employees and SME defined as those with 50-500 employees. Details of this research can be found at www.metlife.co.uk./ReMe

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Protecting Vulnerability in Businesses

The loss of influential individuals through death or serious illness can be hugely detrimental to a company’s financial position, yet this vulnerability is often overlooked when considering the firms insurance needs.

We can provide advice and insurance solutions to protect against these risks.

Looking after staff has always been important for the best employers. Having a positive environment, culture and approach to personal development have long been components that employers have focused on to demonstrate their commitment to caring about staff.

Remuneration packages too, have been clear differentiators between the best employers and the rest. Salary, of course is important, but savvy employers – and employees – recognise that the accompanying employee benefits can boost the value of remuneration packages significantly.

Traditionally, certain benefits would be expected as core, such as a pension, private healthcare and life assurance. But, along with many things, the recent pandemic has changed all that.

Daily reporting on mortality rates, the effect of underlying medical conditions, obesity and the importance of exercise has meant that we are all focusing on our health and wellbeing more than ever.

Remote, personalised, accessible

As such, the health and wellbeing benefits that employers offer have become particularly interesting to staff.

As needs rapidly changed, the industry has been ready to adapt.

Remote, virtual access to GPs 24/7 has been a game changer.

Access to support for mental health has become even more flexible. Counselling can be provided remotely. Apps allow employees to monitor stress levels, and nudge them to access one-to-one support if needed. Personalised hubs provide a wealth of information for self-care.

Celebrities have been brought in to liven up online fitness classes. Discounted home exercise equipment has been made available. Fitness trackers can boost individual motivation, and can also be linked to fellow employees’ workouts to help remote team-building.

Downtime has never been more important, and some providers offer free film downloads, coffee at home, and extra rewards for improving wellbeing.

Let’s get physical

Musculo skeletal conditions account for 40% of sickness absence, but the pandemic hasn’t been a reason for treatment to stop. Providers have made support such as physio available remotely.

The NHS backlog will have a significant impact for some time. Private healthcare will not only help people get the treatment they need, it will also help ease a burden for the NHS.

Employers understand the benefits that providing access to private healthcare can bring in terms of reduced employee absence, but where this may once have been seen as a perk for senior staff, it’s now likely to be offered more widely. There are increasingly flexible options available which have made this affordable for many more employers.

The statistics behind the statistics show the huge decrease in people getting a diagnosis for serious illnesses including cancer. Early diagnosis is imperative for improving outcomes, and providing access to health monitoring and screening is one option that can be a real support to a workforce.

Financial relevance

Where employees may once have paid little attention to financial protection benefits their employer offered – such as life assurance, income protection, critical illness – it’s now become more interesting as they see the direct relevance.

These are some of the most affordable benefits, they’re now likely to be some of the most valued. When a financial pay-out is made in the event of death, illness or injury, the support to an employee and their dependants can be a lifeline. People are now more aware of the likelihood of such an event happening, so will be more engaged in such benefits.

Indeed, financial planning, retirement planning, budgeting, financial education all have more relevance to employees now. Employers that support their workforce in these areas have their finger on the pulse and show a direct understanding of what’s important to their staff.

Communicate and engage

As employees have an increased interest in their physical, mental and financial wellbeing, this provides a perfect opportunity for employers to communicate any support they offer.

And as the benefits themselves have adapted, so too must communication methods. Online platforms, email, post, remote presentations are all being more widely used to great effect. When employees know what support they’re offered, they feel valued and they’re more engaged: great achievements at such a time.

Would you give your pension fund or advise your employees to give their pension fund to a man you have just met?

You and your employees would have seen the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and The Pensions Regulators (TPR) advert telling you not to let scammers enjoy your pension savings.  They have joined forces on the campaign to raise awareness of the common tactics used by fraudsters.

The introduction of ‘Pension Freedoms’ in 2015 gave people greater access to their pensions by allowing new flexibilities with regards to how those over age 55 can take their benefits.  Whilst this was widely welcomed and subsequently used, sadly, the same change in rules also presented opportunities for criminal gangs to defraud savers of their lifetime retirement savings.

With confusion in the minds of some people about what flexibility rules mean, this has created a grey area that scammers like to exploit and prey on people’s lack of knowledge in this area. Very rarely are pension funds recovered if they have been scammed, leaving people reliant on the State Pension.

Scamming is a big issue and is being taken very seriously.  The Commons Select Committee announced last week that it is to examine the impact of Pension Freedoms and the protection of pension savers.  The FCA and TPR stated that in 2018, 180 people reported to Action Fraud that they had been the victim of a pension scam, losing on average £82,000 each. More alarmingly, they believe that only a minority of pension scams are ever reported.

So has Scamming been on the increase during Covid 19?

The Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) publication “DWP’s response to the coronavirus outbreak2 recognises that people facing financial hardship may also be looking at their pension savings as an extra form of support. It is important that these savers are protected from decisions not in their best interests and do not see their savings fall into the hands of opportunistic scammers.

How Employers can help?

Employer can have a big part to play in preventing their employees being scammed.  This is particularly the case given that employees so often look to their employer for initial guidance in such matters.

Employers can help raise awareness of this criminal activity by display an FCA/TPR ScamSmart poster in workplaces to raise awareness of the issues and include reminders of the risks in their regular Employee Benefits updates.  Employers can also signpost employees to generic  impartial guidance via the government funded service, Pension Wise.

In addition, we would strongly encourage Employers to provide employees with more access to group pension surgeries and/or targeted sessions on pension retirement options via remote webinars and video calls during the on-going crisis.

For more information the above topic, please speak to your usual Wingate Consultant or contact us via info@wingatebs.com or on (T)01883 332260.

Although Workplace Pensions have dominated the world of employee benefits over the last 5 years, employers are still encouraged to regularly review and refresh their benefits package to ensure the offering remains both attractive and relevant to employees. So how can benefits be delivered in the most positive way, whilst also avoiding the common mistakes that cause badly managed promotions?

There are a number of different areas to consider for any company reviewing its employee benefits package, whether this is in relation to existing benefits in place, or introducing a new arrangement; some of these are listed below.

Suitability

The demographics of your business could be heavily weighted in a certain area, meaning some benefits may be appreciated more than others.  For example, younger employees may prefer a Health Cash Plan compared to older employees, who may prefer full Private Medical Insurance. Higher earners might want to maximise pension contributions to take advantage of tax savings, whilst those with young families may prioritise Life Assurance or Income Protection. Employee Surveys will tell you what is important to your staff which will ensure that the cost of a new benefit is going to be highly valued by the staff.

Timing

When you have decided what to provide, timing the introduction well is essential. It’s key to avoid periods when high numbers of employees are on leave (e.g. summer holidays/Christmas) and/or when business pressures mean your workforce is unlikely to acknowledge the impact. It is also best to avoid clashes with other business changes, when the positive introduction of a new benefit could be overlooked. So carefully consider when is the best time to announce any changes, to achieve maximum positive engagement from your employees.

Delivery

You must ensure that communications are managed properly and work well to support your key message and the smooth running of the improved benefits package. Whether this is done via letter, benefit guides, e-mail or intranet, any new systems introduced should be made completely clear so your staff understand what is being made available. Employee benefits form part of the remuneration package offered so make sure your employees know when they are getting something extra!

Support

Whether managed by you as the employer, the policy insurer/provider, or your outsourced employee benefit consultant, once in place the new benefit should be clearly promoted and communicated to employees. Training for managers is advisable so they fully understand the benefits on offer and can explain them positively. It’s essential that employees know who they can speak to if they have any queries, or require any assistance, when using this new benefit to ensure it’s effectiveness.

Reviews

Your new employee benefit may be suitable, introduced at the right time and include expert delivery and support – but will it always do what you set out to achieve? Considering your workforce may change, or even forget what is available or how to use it, we recommend employers:

  1. Undertake annual reviews to ensure the benefit remains relevant and cost effective in the market
  2. Provide regular updates and notifications to staff to keep everyone engaged
  3. Ensure the benefit continues to be valued by your staff usually best achieved via employee surveys or review meetings

 

Unless they are contractual there is nothing stopping employer replacing one employee benefit with another for any number of reasons – you just need to consider what is in the best interests’ of your workforce before doing so.

If you are considering providing a new employee benefit or restructure of existing benefits and would like further information on how we can help ensure a successful implementation please contact the team on 01883 332260.

Jon is one of our team of Employee Benefit Advisers.

“So, I have our company pension in place for the employees; contributions are being taken from pay and paid across to our pension provider on time and we have submitted our declaration of compliance to The Pensions Regulator (TPR). All seems to be swimming along lovely and I can now go back to focusing on my business and helping it to make profit.” As a key decision maker or owner of a business, these words may ring very true to you.

With your personal affairs, how often do you review your utility bills, satellite or cable TV contract or mobile phone contract? Personally, I probably look at mine every 2 or so years. I do it just to make sure that I am doing the right thing, that I’m not over paying and that the service I was promised two or so years ago is still the same today. If this is how we deal with our personal affairs, as a business owner, why don’t we do the same with such things as the company’s pension scheme or come to that matter any of the employee benefits? If its the general insurance, property rates or IT or phone systems, they’ll usually be reviewed annually so why not the same for the pension and other benefits?

Pension legislation as well as payroll software and pension systems are all very different now to how they were back in 2012 when Automatic Enrolment Preview (opens in a new window)started and is even more different in the last two years. However, has your company pension been amended/reviewed to keep up to date with these changes in legislation?

Questions such as the following should all be asked

  • How is the default investment fund performing, and what are you measuring it against?
  • Is the Annual Management Charge competitive?
  • Does my employees’ pension target drawdown or annuity?
  • Does my payroll provider have a direct link with my pension provider to simplify payroll processes?
  • Do my employees value the pension?
  • Can I help them with pension education?

Many people will comment that ‘if it ain’t broke’ don’t fix it’, however, if the pension doesn’t perform as it should and/or employees aren’t receiving value for money who do you think your employees would go to for answers?’

The scrutiny from TPR over the coming years on Workplace Pension is only going to intensify over the next few years and therefore it is important that a business has steps in place to defend itself and justify the decisions made to TPR if asked.  A review of your Workplace Pension will either confirm that what you’ve done is still good today or highlight areas of improvement.

Either way, this is a positive message that can be sent to staff to re-assure them that you have everything under control and that they can continue to drive the business forward on your behalf.

For further information on our scheme suitability review services please contact the team on 01883 332260.

 

Richard is one of our Strategic Benefit Consultants specialising in Workplace Pensions.