One of the many things that Covid has highlighted in the world of Employee Benefits in respect of benefits provided to staff by employers is the role that they can play in reducing ill-health related job losses.

The Group Risk industry body, Group Risk Development (GRiD), of which Wingate Benefit Solutions is a member, has suggested that a ‘consensus statement’ be used by employers with a view to improving employer guidance and awareness to their employees of the link between good work and good health and promote the use of expert-led support services. This suggestion by GRiD has recently been backed by government.

The Employee Benefits industry absolutely embraces these proposals, as these will help employers, through their advisers, promote both the wellbeing services and rehabilitation support services that sit within Group Income Protection policies (previously known as Permanent Health Insurance). For many years employers have insured their employees through Group Income Protection policies with the main purpose of the insurance being that should an employee be absent from work for a long period of time, (typically more than 26 weeks) the insurance would kick in meaning that the liability to pay the employee’s salary or at least a large proportion of it sits with the insurer of the benefit.

Recently however, many providers of this benefit have introduced value added enhancements to their Group Income Protection propositions meaning that employers can tap into these services and adopt methods promoted by qualified professionals to implement processes and solutions to help keep their workforce fit and health before they reach the stage of being absent form work.

Its well-known and more accepted than ever that employers have an important part to play in maintaining good health, dealing with ill health at an early stage and supporting employees to remain in work. Over the coming months and years, we could see a massive change in how Group Income Protection arrangements are used and it’s likely that we could see them move from being a box ticking product due to a contractual commitment or something similar to an invaluable HR tool for the benefit of both employers and employees alike.

What’s the catch I hear you say? Well none, really. With expert advice and guidance Group Income Protection can be established to meet the needs of an employer and could cost as low as 0.5-2% of payroll. All Group Income Protection policies are annually renewable and reviewable meaning that an employer can change the terms of the policy to meet the needs of the business on an ongoing basis.

If you would like to explore the potential benefits to you as an employer of introducing a Group Income Protection scheme or would like a free review of your existing Group Income Protection policy, or any other employee benefits schemes which you may have in place, please contact one of the team at Wingate on either 01883 332260 or at info@wingatebs.com

Now, more than ever, we need to be putting focus on our health. I think we can all agree that we are very lucky to have the NHS who we can rely on for free healthcare when we need it. However, there are certain healthcare elements which we don’t have free access to, dental treatment and eyecare being two examples.

For many people the pandemic has meant that the purse strings are understandably a little tighter at the moment, so there is a risk that people are putting off these essential healthcare needs due to costs.

Many of the employee benefits in our industry can only be claimed against if somebody falls ill, gets injured, or worse. A Health Cash Plan is a great benefit for employers to provide to their staff, as it allows you to claim back money towards the cost of essential healthcare and it can be used by everyone. Yes, Dental and Optical benefits tend to be the most utilised however, there a number of excellent benefits included within a Health Cash Plan. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you can expect to see cover for the following:

  • Consultations and diagnostics tests
  • Physiotherapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic
  • Homeopathy
  • Reflexology
  • Chiropody
  • Prescriptions
  • Health assessments

Each benefit has an annual monetary allowance which can be claimed, and different levels of cover are available depending on the requirements of an employer. Insured employees can add family members to their plans and cover for children is often provided for free.

Claiming under these plans is very simple. You pay for the treatment yourself, provide the insurer with a copy of your receipt, usually uploaded via a mobile app, and you then get reimbursed with the funds hitting your bank account in around 3-5 working days.

As well as the ‘core’ benefits, many Health Cash Plan providers provide a range of extra benefits at no additional cost. These can include:

  • Retail discounts
  • Virtual GP access
  • Gym discounts
  • 24/7 health and stress helpline
  • Second medical opinion service

Health Cash Plan really are an excellent addition to an employer’s employee benefits package, and health and wellbeing strategy. Everyone can make use of the benefits available and with costs starting from around £1 per employee per week, they offer great value for money.

If you’d like to discuss the benefits of implementing a Health Cash Plan for your staff please do get in touch.

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.

According to recent research1, 46% of employees say that the Covid 19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has made them review the value of the benefits their employer offers when deciding to stay with or join a new employer.

The research also found that 33% of employees want their employer to prioritise health over lifestyle benefits. In addition, approximately one-fifth (21%) want greater access to wellness support.

Furthermore, 15% of employees expect to see an increase in the benefits they are offered following the pandemic, while 10% believe that the pandemic has exposed a lack of suitable benefits offered by their employer. 33% of UK employees who responded said communication of benefits was an issue, with their employer failing to keep them informed of relevant benefits during the pandemic.

These are very strong figures and should not be ignored as looking after your staff has always been important for the best employers.

The importance of Health and Wellbeing benefits that employers offer is now more important to employees than ever before and the Insurance industry has been quick to move with the practicalities that Covid 19 has presented.  An example of this would be access to virtual GP’s 24/7 provided by some insurers has been a real benefit to employees during the pandemic.

Protection benefits such as Life insurance which are some of the most affordable benefits, are now likely to be the most valued with a financial pay- out being paid to dependants in the event of death.

Employees are reviewing what employers provide to help support them and this will mean that employees are likely to be more engaged with their benefits.  As employees are more engaged with their financial security, for them and their family, now is the time to make sure that the employee benefits that employers provide are what their employees want and value.  Communicating these benefits is vital and we are seeing more online access, Apps and videos being used to greater effect.

Employers that support their workforce in the above areas have their finger on the pulse and show a direct understanding of what is important to their staff.

As an employer ask yourself these three simple questions:

  • Do you know what current benefits your staff value the most?
  • Do you know what benefits your employees would like that you do not provide?
  • Do you think your staff know about all the benefits you provide and where to access all the benefits?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then I would recommend you commence a review of your total Employee Benefits package. Employees want to know that the support an employer is offering them will really help them and their families and a good benefit package will make them feel valued as an employee.

Please contact info@wingatebs.com or phone on 01883 332260 to speak to a member of the team about an Employee Benefit Review.

 

1 From a recent survey commissioned by Maxis GBN global perspectives: Covid-19 and the future of employee benefits which surveyed senior executives and 1,000 employees in 10 countries

One of the (many) things I love about my job is the variety of opinions that I canvass when speaking with existing and potential new employers. It is clear from conversations that I have with employers from different industries, locations, and who have varying employee demographics that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to employee benefits. Whilst some employers fully embrace not only a full range of benefits and the promotion of them, but other employers also simply see employee benefits as a box ticking and hygiene exercise.

A conversation that is now taking place more often than not is around, ‘What are our competitors doing/offering and how do we compare?’. To my mind this conversation clearly means that employers are looking to ensure that they are competitive from a remuneration package point of view which in turn helps to sell themselves as an employer of choice. Benchmarking is a great exercise to undertake but unless an employer is willing to take steps to create a budget for any potential changes to an employee benefits offering, is the exercise worthwhile?

Without a doubt, yes! The result from any exercise will either demonstrate what an employer has in place already is competitive or that it is not competitive. If it is competitive then this should be something that an employer shouts from the rooftops. Alternatively, if not, at the very least the employer has the information with which to decide on how they bridge any weaknesses.

Regardless of the outcome of any benchmarking exercise, the promotion of benefits and the implementation or review of any employee benefits strategy including health and wellbeing strategies should also be considered. There is absolutely no point investing vast sums of money into insurance related or technology-based solutions unless employees engage with them, embrace them, and value them.

Latest research from Aon’s UK Benefits and Trends 2021 survey, in which there were over 300 participants, show that:

  • 77% of the surveyed companies benchmark their benefits
  • Enhancing communications with employees is a high priority for 86% of employers
  • The top 3 priorities by importance to employers are:
    • Employee Engagement
    • Cost Management
    • Employee Retention
  • The majority of employers mainly use email to communicate their benefit and wellbeing support
  • 44% of employer have a formal health and wellbeing policy with 33% intending to have one within 18 months
  • 50% of employers offer financial education as part of their health and wellbeing programme
  • 35% of employers use face to face briefings to communicate flexibility around the retirement options linked to Pensions but only 13% offer employer paid financial advice
  • A big majority say their healthcare spend will be focussed on education and prevention
  • 48% of the respondents do not feel they are doing enough to support financial wellbeing and pension communications and are planning to do more

This data is then backed up by the Group Risk Development (GRiD) research that was undertaken by Opinium whereby more than 500 HR Decision makers were surveyed. Highlights form this survey are:

  • 69% of respondents think that the Covid 19 pandemic will mean a change in the way that employers support the health and wellbeing of staff
  • 68% of respondents provide financial support in the event of long-term absence (6 months or more) due to ill health, disability, or injury
  • 89% of respondents believe that supporting the health and wellbeing of staff has a significant positive impact for their business
  • 41% of respondents do not measure appreciation of employee benefits
  • 31% of respondents do not measure the impact of sickness absence

Clearly the theme from both sets of research is similar in that it appears that the communication of benefits and employees being aware of what is being provided to them, together with the general health and wellbeing of a workforce are the key factors being considered by employers.

It is very encouraging and refreshing to see that employers are taking these positive steps with the outcome surely being a win-win for both employers and employees alike. However, its vitally important that an employer engages with specialists to help them identify and deliver the health and wellbeing requirements of their specific business and its workforce, and the first step should be to engage with an award winning, client focussed employee benefit consultancy like Wingate Benefit Solutions.

There is something very satisfying about setting out objectives, and never more so than when setting out objectives for your business.

The next step is to make sure that every aspect of running your business is aligned with those objectives. And that includes reward and remuneration packages: one of the biggest costs for any business, and all the more reason to ensure they support your objectives.

Cost control

Controlling costs is important for every organisation, and particularly so this year.

Many companies will be starting their recovery from the pandemic, and as the government job retention scheme and support ceases, ensuring value from all spend is going to be crucial.

Now is the time to review which benefits are highly valued and highly utilised and a priority. But that’s not the end of the job. The next stage is to see if there are any cost-savings to be had. Talk to specialist advisers that have good relationships with providers and know how to broker a good deal for their clients. Products and propositions are enhanced all the time, and what was good value for your business in the past, might not be today.

Get value

Added-value benefits has become the hot topic in the world of employee benefits. Access to employee assistance programmes; support for nutrition, health and fitness; 24/7 access to GPs are all benefits that were historically bought standalone. Today they’re often provided at no extra cost within other employee benefits.

We find that many companies don’t know the detail of what they have access to within their existing offering. A good employee benefits consultant can tell you what added-value benefits you have, what you should be entitled to and – possibly most importantly – what you may be paying for twice. Now is not the time for superfluous spend.

Grow the business

Many companies will look to grow their business this year. This might be via new product development, building client relationships or finding new routes to market. And they’ll be on the look-out for specialist talent that can deliver on this. That specialist talent might well be used to, and expect, a certain reward and remuneration package.

Gone are the days when a high salary was enough to attract the best. Today, people that have the pick of the jobs are savvy. Your company will be judged on culture, approach and values. The employee benefits you offer are a tangible way to demonstrate your values. Benefits that support financial, physical and mental wellbeing will go a long way to help you get your first-choice hires.

It can be really helpful to benchmark your industry, and others, so you know what benefits you need to offer.

Some of these benefits might be high-ticket, so even more reason to ensure you get specialist advice on the value for money these provide.

Other benefits will cost less than you might think. Group life assurance, cash plans, employee assistance programmes are some of the most valued employee benefits available, and some of the best value too. But they’re not all created equally. Specialist advice will ensure the spend is wise.

Retain your talent

Retaining your staff is equally important to build a solid business. With remote working and disparate workforces, keeping staff engaged has been a challenge. This will result in people looking for grass that’s greener.

The first step is to understand your staff and what benefits they’d value. Look at your employee demographic, consider staff surveys, understand the utilisation of current benefits.

It’s also important to ensure the benefits you offer are appreciated. It can be a great help to make use of providers’ and advisers’ communication programmes to explain the detail of the benefits and how to access them to engage your staff.

Make employee benefits work for you and they can play a key role in helping you achieve your business objectives.

You know you have a problem when the Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion, Guy Opperman says:

‘For too long pensions have been shrouded in complexity and technical jargon, limiting people’s understanding of their savings and hampering their retirement planning.’

To be fair, I completely agree with him and make him absolutely correct!

Historically pension statements have been issued on an annual basis, are usually 8-10 pages long and may potentially grab the reader’s attention for the first 2 pages, possibly 3 at a stretch. The reader is likely to simply file this statement into their dusty old pension file where it will sit with the last 5 years’ worth of statements. Most lay people tend to want to know 3 things:

  • How much money is in my pension pot?
  • How much money will this give me when I retire?
  • What can I do to improve these figures?

Recently, pension providers have been taking steps to make their pension statements more engaging such as including colourful pie and bar charts and also issuing them online to make them more accessible but is the message getting across to the consumer?

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced proposals that will mean that annual pension statements for workplace pensions will have to be condensed to a maximum of two pages.

The DWP proposals will require pension providers to provide pension statements and structure them in such a way that draws members’ attention to the three key areas mentioned above.

The initial focus will be on defined contribution schemes used for Automatic Enrolment, with a view to later improving consistency across all types of pension schemes.

Simpler statements will include a line on costs and charges and a clear signpost for a more detailed assessment of this information elsewhere to help members see what they have paid for their pension.

Guy Opperman has also said:

‘Simple statements will usher in a new standard for how schemes communicate with their members – vastly improving people’s understanding and engagement with their pensions.’

With more people saving for their retirement than ever before thanks to Automatic Enrolment, it is vital they can understand what’s going on with their hard-earned money and actively plan for their future.

Simpler pension statements support the department’s ambition to make information about pension saving more accessible to consumers, running parallel to the department’s championing of the use of dashboards, an innovation that will allow savers’ pension information to be accessed on digital devices at any time they choose. Further work to encourage and drive the consolidation of small pots will also lead to better outcomes for pension scheme members.’

If any of your employees are having any difficulty in understanding their pension statements in their current form, then please do not hesitate to direct them to our experienced team at Wingate on 01883 332260 or at info@wingatebs.com who will be able to help them make sense of what they have and how it works.

Ref: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/simple-statements-boost-for-pension-planning 19th October 2020

Group Life Assurance benefits will pay a lump sum benefit upon death of an insured employee. However, what many people overlook is that traditionally Group Life schemes are written under registered pension scheme legislation and as such, there are instances where an individual can invalidate their pension protection by joining such a scheme.

The Lifetime Allowance (LTA) was created when pension simplification legislation was implemented in April 2006. Benefits which count towards the LTA include registered pension and lump sum death benefits from registered Group Life Assurance schemes. Historically, the LTA was £1.8m but since April 2012, this has been reduced a number of times. For 2020/21, the LTA is £1,073,100. Benefits which exceed the LTA are subject to a tax charge of up to 55%.

Individuals with benefits above or approaching the LTA can apply for pension protection from the HMRC. Since the introduction of the LTA, there are several different types of pension protection which have become available to enable individuals to protect the value of benefits that they have built up (and future benefits that may accrue) from tax charges. If pension protection is granted, these protections are subject to different conditions and strict rules and if broken, the protection will be withdrawn.

A potential issue with registered group life arrangements is when an employee with Pension Protection joins a ‘new’ registered group life scheme due to the fact that they have joined a new employer, the protection may be voided, depending on the type of protection they have and when this was granted. An employer may not be aware of employees who have pension protection in place, as this is arranged on an individual basis. A Group Life scheme is classed as a ‘new’ arrangement if the Pension Scheme Tax Reference (PSTR) number which applies to the scheme changes or a new trust is arranged for a scheme.

The alternative, an ‘Excepted’ Group Life scheme, provide lump sum death benefits outside of the registered pension scheme environment. Therefore any benefits paid are not currently included in the calculation of the LTA. You may wish to consider setting up an Excepted scheme for a defined section of your membership. There will usually be no difference in cost for this type of arrangement and you would need to execute a trust deed prior to implementing the insurance policy.

There are advantages and disadvantages of the way a scheme can be established and managed over another. There are some differences between Registered and Excepted schemes, which include potential tax charges in certain scenarios on an Excepted scheme. If you would like to discuss the different options available and which may be suitable for your business, please do get in touch.

We are delighted to announce that Wingate Benefit Solutions have been recognised as shortlisted finalists in two categories at the 2020 Health Insurance and Protection awards.

Wingate received this accolade in the highly contested categories of ‘Best Adviser for Group Protection’ and ‘Best Adviser for Group Healthcare’.   These awards are our industry’s ultimate accolade and an unparalleled recognition of excellence.

Commenting on this latest achievement, Ben Clarke; Managing Director of Wingate said; “We are so proud that the hard work and commitment of our team to deliver exceptional standards of advice and service have been recognised”

What seems like a lifetime ago, in 2014 the government announced that it was planning to increase the age at which someone can access their private pension (including their workplace pension) to age 57 from age 55. This is due to be implemented in 2028.

Although things have been quiet on this topic since 2014, in response to a written parliamentary question posed on 3rd September, the Treasury confirmed that it is still intending to push ahead with these changes.

The Treasury have provided some reasoning behind these proposed changes which are three-fold in that they are designed to:

  1. Reflect trends in longevity. i.e. people are living longer
  2. Encourage people to remain in work
  3. Ensure pension savings provide for later life

The cynics amongst us may feel that people remaining in work should mean more taxes being paid and therefore more revenue to HMRC which in the current climate must be a surely be priority to HMRC. Moreover, if people access pension at a later date then this should reduce the chances of people spending their funds more quickly than they should and as a result should be less likely to rely on the government to support them financially in their later years.

The biggest issue that the government needs to deal with is the finer detail around this change and how this message is communicated as the government surely cannot afford a repeat of the mess that was created when the state pension age moved from 60 to 65. The government could look at making the change at say the beginning of a tax year in 2028 or even in the October of 2028 as this is when the state pension age changes to 67. This does come with its own problems due to a hard cliff edge with people winning or losing depending on what side of the line they fall on.

If the government decide to phase in the changes in that same way as they did when they changed to the current state pension age then this also could have problems due to the opaque timing of the changes and their already poor track record of communicating such radical changes to the wider population.

As we sit here today, I am not personally against these changes as I do understand, and to an extent, agree with the reasons for them. This change has not as yet been rubber stamped by government however in my opinion the government need to come forward with more details about their plan as soon as possible so that the adviser community can help in getting the message out to the nation to ensure people can plan properly for their retirement.