Employee benefits have been pushed to the forefront of attention due to the COVID-19 pandemic with almost three in four companies planning to review the employee benefits they are offering.

According to new research by Howden, an employee benefits company, almost three in every four companies (72 per cent) are planning to review the employee benefits offered at their firm.

This is in light of the COVID-19 pandemic which has heightened the focus on wellbeing and health.

Around six in 10 professionals that were surveyed admitted the importance of these packages.

Almost four in 10 employers (38 per cent) felt that benefits had become “much more important” due to the global pandemic. Just over a fifth of employers (22 per cent) felt they had become a “little more important” (22 per cent) than before the pandemic.

Research by Gallagher, a consulting services firm, looked more specifically at what employers wished to change within their employees’ benefits package.

This year, around four in 10 (42 per cent) of organisations wanted to improve the flexibility in provision of benefits whilst just under one fifth (19 per cent) were planning to change the level of cover for employee benefits. Around one in two employers (52 per cent) stated that they were going to focus on improving the communication process, with improved signposting around benefits which would improve employee engagement and maximise the return on investment.

However, many firms expressed worry over enhancing their benefits package. 70 per cent stated finding it challenging to control increasing benefit costs whilst managing tight budgets. Over half of companies (53 per cent) found it difficult to offer benefits which appeal to a diverse workforce with different preferences.

This response from employers is particularly important when considering 53 per cent of employees stated, in a Hays survey, that mental wellbeing had become more important to them since lockdown.

Steve Herbert, Head of Benefits Strategy at Howden, said:

The truth is that the mortality, physical health, and mental wellbeing risks for workforces and their employers have been made so much more apparent by the COVID-19 crisis. It follows that employers in all sectors are now much more acutely aware of the need to support their workers wherever possible, and we are expecting this new attitude to feed through into many more conversations about a variety of workforce wellbeing initiatives in the months and years ahead.

It’s really encouraging that so many employers and their Human Resources teams are now fully accepting the true value of employee benefits provision in protecting workers of all grades, their loved ones, and of course the employer too.

Nick Burns, CEO at Gallagher’s UK Employee Benefits Consulting Division, said:

 In a post-COVID-19 world, where workforces are more disparate and borderless than ever before, benefit communications will play a key role in re-engaging employees. Investing in these digital channels and ensuring they are fit for purpose will be key for boosting morale and maintaining a productive workforce.

It is also clear from this year’s reports that with so many people now working from home, creating a sense of belonging has had to be approached differently. Those who focus on aligning a company’s purpose with their benefit offering, ESG strategies and general governance will come out on top.

 

*Howden compiled this data after surveying over 140 senior HR and finance professionals in September 2020.

*Gallagher’s Benefits and Benchmarking Survey was conducted in April – June 2020 and aggregated responses from over 200 companies in the UK.