Investing in flexible benefits would significantly increase the take up of important protection benefits but improved communication is crucial, according to research from MetLife Employee Benefits.

MetLife’s UK Employee Benefit Trends Study found that employees are much more likely to pay towards benefits if their employer leads by example and invests in contributions. The results of this would be substantially increased market penetration as well as the number of employees and their families that are protected.

Tom Gaynor, Employee Benefits Director of MetLife UK, said:

“Employees are much more likely to buy cover when it comes with company co-payments. A benefits programme must meet the needs of the modern workplace on both sides of the equation covering the employer’s need for engaged and motivated employees and the employees’ needs for benefits that reflect different life stages and financial circumstances.  Flexible benefits can do both of these things, but to be effective businesses need to ensure communication is working well.”

Group income protection – which currently covers just 11 percent of employees – could see coverage almost triple if employers help with payments, preventing millions of families from facing the risk of significant financial hardship should illness or injury prevent them from working.

However, clear communication of the possibilities is essential, as just 31 percent of staff believe the rates and options are better if they buy through their employer.

The research, conducted by Research Runner, highlights key areas for employers and employee benefit providers to address including support for employees around their primary financial concerns with planning for retirement and becoming unable to work through illness or injury high on the list.

Employees recognise the importance of physical and mental health for them while employers also recognise the need for wellness programmes in the workplace with 82 percent saying it was on their agenda – more than any other HR objective cited by respondents.