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.

You may have forgotten but significant changes were made to pension tax relief for high earners on the 6th April 2016 and further changes have been made in subsequent Budgets.

The original legislation meant that individuals with threshold income of more than £110,000 and total earnings in excess of £210,000 could only contribute £10,000 per tax year to all pensions inclusive of employer contributions and receive tax relief.  Any excess pension payments were subject to tax at the individual’s highest marginal rate. The advice of many pension advisers at the time was to reduce workplace pension contributions for these individuals to £10,000 per tax year. You may well have taken such action. However what has been less well publicised was a change in this legislation in the 2020/2021 budget which raised the earnings threshold from £110,000 to £200,000 and changed the point at which tapering of annual allowances and therefore tax relief applies. The current basis is summarised below:

  • Adjusted income* of £240,000 (includes employer pension contributions or employee contributions via salary sacrifice) or less, their Annual Allowance is £40,000
  • Adjusted income* of £260,000, their Annual Allowance is £30,000
  • Adjusted income* of £280,000, their Annual Allowance is £20,000
  • Adjusted income* of £312,000 or more, their Annual Allowance is £4,000

* ‘adjusted income’ (includes employer pension contributions or employee contributions via salary sacrifice)

Unfortunately these changes impact your most senior employees both potentially positively and negatively so it is really important you get this right. We would recommend taking the following action:

  • Review employees who you have previously reduced contributions to check if they are no longer affected by tapering and increase the employer contribution.
  • Highlight which employees contributions need to be reduced further to £4,000.

You may also not be aware that if individuals have unused pension Annual Allowance in the previous 3 tax years they can potentially carry this forward to enable contributions in excess of the current year’s annual allowance to be made without a tax liability arising. Bear in mind that in any tax year in which the Tapered Annual Allowance applied, it’s only any unused balance of the tapered figure that is available for carry forward.

If this is all beginning to seem a bit complicated and hard to understand we sympathise. Unfortunately pension legislation and tax relief is a complex area. This is why we offer an annual governance service to our clients to help guide them through the legislation and provide advice and guidance to their affected employees. Please get in touch If this type of service is of interest.

 

 

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

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

Let us not beat around the bush, lockdown has been tough on everyone and although there could be light at the end of the tunnel the long term impact on everyone’s health and wellbeing will only become apparent in the coming months and years.

Whilst there are many, many negatives to lockdown, far too many to mention in a blog like this; being the ‘glass half full’ person that I am, I have tried to put a positive spin on the situation and have taken time to look at the good things that have come out of lockdown.

For me, the major plus point that has come out of lockdown is that the situation has allowed me to spend more time with my young family (5year old twins). I have been able to sit down and have breakfast with them instead of grabbing something to eat and dashing to the car on the way to work as well as an evening meal together, both things that I was rarely able to do when working from the office. As a family we have used this time together to ask each other what we have planned for the day and then at the end of the day, understand if our plans have come to fruition and if they did not, what we will all do to try and make tomorrow a better day. These are just two small things that I would have missed out on if it were not for lockdown.

One area that I am aware is developing at a rate of knots because of lockdown is an ‘always on’ mindset/culture and I am sure we all have many colleagues who work in this way.  An ‘always on’ mindset/culture is a term used when people struggle to separate their professional and personal lives and I suspect that this issue is high on the list of HR associates as the fear of burnout could rapidly become a reality.

Understandably businesses must walk a fine line between employees delivering excellent results due to having an ‘always on’ mindset and ‘burning out’ considering the collateral damage this could mean to colleagues and clients alike. It goes without saying that a HR associates will always have the best interests of the employee at heart.

Clearly there is no one size fits all solution to solving this issue, but consideration should be given to traditional resources such as Mental Health First Aid training for HR associates and line managers giving them the ability to identify and support early signs of the deterioration of an employee’s mental health.

There are other less traditional things that employers can look at doing and these could include company wellness days, Zoom/Team free meeting days, regular therapy sessions for employees as well as a good old company team quiz (we have not done many of these for while!!).

Regardless of the solution, burnout needs to start to move its way up an HR associates’ agenda sooner rather than later. As and when it reaches the top of your agenda, make sure you utilise  the resources available through any existing employer benefit packages that you currently pay for as you may be surprised as to the additional support you already have.

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.

Four reasons to review employee benefits

Once employee benefits are in place, the temptation to tick the employee benefit box as ‘job done’ can be irresistible. But therein lies folly, and here are four key reasons why.

Needs change

Employee benefits that were once applicable for a workforce, even just 12 months ago, may not be relevant today.

Employee demographics change, new recruits come into a business, employees’ life stages change and so do their needs.

Benefits such as life assurance, retirement planning and healthcare may not have engaged some employees at a certain life stage; but once they have financial commitments or dependants, such benefits can be vital.

Benefits that were once seen as gilt-edged in a particular industry sector quickly become expected as standard, and employers need to keep up if they want to recruit the best.

Benefits change

The world of employee benefits never stands still. Some of the greatest minds in business spend their lives focused on how to improve the financial, physical and mental wellbeing of employees. In practice this means we now have a greater range and affordability of available support.

For instance, access to specialist oncologists, rehabilitation and counselling were once expensive additions to some health and wellbeing benefits. They now come as standard and at no extra cost.

It’s important to keep on top of what’s available.

Such benefits don’t just support employees, they can help a business achieve its objectives too. The right benefits can increase engagement and productivity, and help with recruitment and absence management.

Potential for savings change

There is potential for significant savings to be made with a regular review of benefits.

For example, employers can make great savings on their national insurance contributions by utilising salary exchange for pension contributions, which can be advantageous for employees too.

As health and wellbeing benefits are regularly enhanced, many now include benefits that employers will also be paying for standalone. For instance, an employee assistance programme (EAP) is often included at no extra cost alongside life assurance – one of the most popular employee benefits with nearly 10 million employees covered in the UK. EAPs are an increasingly popular benefit which are often purchased separately. A review can show if an employer is paying for this unnecessarily. This can also be the case for other benefits too.

Fees and administration costs vary hugely between different benefits, advisers, providers and suppliers. Just as it’s important to benchmark benefits with competitors, it’s also important to benchmark on costs to see where savings can be made.

Laws and regulations change

The Equality Act 2010, Written Statement of Employment Particulars which came into force April 2020, employment contracts, the removal of the default retirement age all have a bearing on employee benefits, and it’s important that the implications are understood and that benefits are compliant.

Every year the Chancellor’s Budget has a review of taxation which can affect the pension lifetime allowance. This can have serious tax implications for business owners and employees. Specialist guidance and advice is vital so employees have enough time to plan and mitigate the chance of unexpected tax when they come to draw their pension.

The onus is on the employer to ensure a workplace pension is fit for purpose. Regular governance is vital to ensure that it is, as well as to review appropriateness of investments for good member outcomes.

A well-managed employee benefits package is a great support to employer and employee alike, and a regular review is vital to ensure its potential is maximised.

 

 

Unquestionably, COVID-19 has been a game changer in many aspects, including the way we work. Offices, shops, factories, restaurants, hairdressers (the list goes on) have been forced to close and those of us lucky enough to be able to work from home have had to adapt very quickly to a new way of working.

Businesses have adopted new remote and virtual ways of working and you have to wonder whether we will ever return to the “normal” we knew before the pandemic struck.

Whilst it may have taken some getting used to, I think on the whole people have shown that they can be just as effective (if not more so) than if they were in the office. This is my personal observation from speaking to colleagues, clients and friends though I know I don’t speak for everyone. Working from home certainly has brought its own challenges. There are pros and cons of working remotely, some of the key points are as follows though this is by no means an exhaustive list:

Pros

  • Greater flexibility
  • Improved work-life balance
  • Lack of commuting, travel to meetings (saving time and money)

Cons

  • Can be difficult to ‘switch off’ from work
  • Tendency to work longer hours, due to lack of travel etc
  • Distractions (children, pets, partners!) – I feel for those who are currently juggling a full time job, and home schooling their children, this must be a real challenge

There is no doubt that businesses will need to try and be flexible where possible, when it comes to planning for the new world of working. This is an opportunity to re-evaluate previous working practises and develop a new innovative approach which works for both the company and its employees. Wellbeing has to play a key part in such plans and that’s why, for me, it is so important that businesses ask employees for their feedback and opinions on what they would like the new working environment to look like in future.

Lots of things to consider, and no doubt many firms are already hard at work with their plans. It will be very interesting to see how things develop over the coming months.

On a personal level, I would like a mix of remote working and time in the office. I like working  from home but I do miss the face to face interaction and that team ethos you get when you are in the office. Teams and Zoom are great, but there is no substitute for actual human interaction!