New research shows that nine in ten businesses (89 per cent) offer counselling as part of their reward strategy, making it the most popular benefit to provide among UK organisations.

In fact, counselling itself has become more popular among UK businesses, with the number of organisations offering the service rising slightly last year, and it is currently 14 per cent higher than it was in 2019.

Many are suggesting that the pandemic has actually improved the way that employers respond to mental health,

Alongside counselling and employee assistance programmes, other popular benefits were life assurance, which is currently provided by 82 per cent of businesses.

Childcare vouchers and cycle-to-work schemes were similarly popular, offered by 70 per cent of employers respectively.

As the candidate shortage and the ‘Great Resignation’ continue to permeate the UK, employers continue to look at their rewards programmes and respond to changes in order to build benefits schemes and meet employee demand.

Almost a fifth (18 per cent) of HR professionals surveyed said that retaining and attracting new talent and remaining competitive is the strategic focus of their benefit package.

Some organisations are now looking to respond to employee demand by letting them manage their own rewards by offering flexible benefits.

However, this remains a mammoth task for any organisation, which is why this strategy is offered by less than one in ten (7 per cent) of employers, with a third (37 per cent) opting to provide selective initiatives on a flexible basis instead.

The most popular benefit to be offered flexibly is buying and selling annual leave, at almost 70 per cent (69 per cent).

This is followed by cycle to work schemes (62 per cent) and pensions contributions (61 per cent).

Sarah Byrne, HR practice editor at XpertHR, commented:

Counselling and employee assistance programmes topping the benefit survey comes as no surprise following the pandemic and the spotlight it shone on not only mental health, but overall employee wellbeing.

As the war for talent grows ever more competitive, benefits have become an important tool for attracting and retaining key employees. In the past salary has dominated applicant priorities, but today the reassurance they will be appreciated and well looked after is paramount to employees.


*In order to obtain this research, XpertHR’s survey on benefits and allowances was conducted in May and June 2021. Responses were received from 180 organisations, collectively employing more than 262,000 people.