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Q&A: Employee Benefits: Then, now and next

Q&A Pay and Benefits webinar

There were some questions remaining from our most recent webinar, Employee Benefits, Then, Now and Next. Sponsored by Engage Health Group, the discussion drew comments and questions from those attending:

Q: How do you think hybrid working has changed benefits and how they are delivered?

Nick Hale, Founding Director, Engage Health Group: We don’t feel that hybrid working has dramatically changed benefits, as the vast majority of our work is helping clients to implement employee benefits which aren’t geographically relevant. Having conducted post-covid employee benefits surveys, the benefits which are most highly in demand remain heath focused, such as health insurance, health cash plans and dental, all of which are not impacted by where an employee is based. Of course, with less employees in large city centres, there are savings to be made by tailoring insurance based benefits (health insurance and group life/death in service) to reflect an employee base which now works outside of high-risk and expensive geographical locations.

Nicola Mullineux, Associate Director, HR Content, Peninsula: As hybrid work arrangements are becoming increasingly popular employers need to look at ways in which they can make working in this way as engaging and productive as possible. Employers need to consider whether the benefits that they have traditionally offered employees are still attractive and of value. As employees will spend some time at home and some time in the office, employers who offer benefits to cover transport costs such as train season tickets, or discounted car parking for example, may not be as relevant or appealing as they once were when employees were travelling into the office full time. If there is an onsite gym for example employers may wish to consider whether offering discounted gym membership instead may be of more use for employees who are not always in the office. Some benefits however will continue to remain as relevant to employees regardless of where they are working such as student loan repayments and offering investment opportunities for employees to buy company shares.

Alison Richardson, Director of HR Operations, Yodel: Hybrid working has put extra pressure on having the right communication platforms to make sure colleagues aren’t ‘lost’. From my experience at Yodel, this means communicating about benefits (and lots of other topics) through multiple platforms, multiple times. It might feel like over kill but it’s the only way to ensure colleague are receiving the information. Channels include, social media platforms like Yammer and Instagram, internal emails, messages through existing business apps and we even use a letter home if we really want a message to be heard.

In terms of benefits themselves, a lot of exec teams see hybrid working itself as a huge benefit and may deter some leadership teams from providing additional benefits. At Yodel, we have seen some tension between those that are able to work from home and those that cannot due to the nature of their role.

More generally, I don’t think hybrid working has drastically affected colleague core benefits but reward and recognition is more common for front line roles, especially in light of the cost of living crisis and how this is impacting lower paid staff.

Q: Are company bonuses still classed as a benefit in high demand?

Nick Hale: Monetary renumeration will always be highly important to staff, but we see this represented more in a fair basic salary and pay equality, rather than in the form of bonuses. Many employers that have traditionally paid bonuses linked to the overall performance of the business are now weighing up whether this resource can be deployed in a smarter way. There is an argument that paying pure cash to employees has a minimal return on investment, whereas benefits which support the physical, mental and financial wellbeing of the employee and their families is much more likely to yield a greater long-term return, for both employee and employer.

Nicola Mullineux: For some employees, a company bonus may still be a benefit in high demand given the cost-of-living crisis and because they see this as a reward for a job well done. For other employees, however, a more consistent increased salary rather than a sporadic bonus may be seen as preferrable. Some employees may instead prefer benefits which assist them in having a better work/life balance, such as increased annual leave entitlement, increased family leave entitlement and income protection. Employees will be looking for different things so an employer may wish to consider different types of benefits which appeal to a variety of employees.

Alison Richardson: I believe that company bonuses are still in high demand however due to the cost pressures on businesses at the moment, they are less likely to pay out than in previous years. This makes retention of key talent problematic, especially in more senior roles. I have noticed a trend in making larger increases to basic pay as a way of retaining talent, especially where bonus schemes aren’t paying out.

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