What benefits and rewards are most important to employees in the UK?
Career Academy is an information, advice, and support facility for permanent and freelance professionals in the creative sector. Particularly in marketing, PR, digital, social media, events, creative, design.
Having been in the recruitment business for over three decades, we’ve seen the rise of benefits and rewards packages as part of job offers. But with the spotlight on flexible working and work life balance in recent years – are they more important than ever to attract and retain talent? Here’s our guide to the benefits and rewards job candidates are looking for.
What do employees value most at work?
Before we get into the world of benefits and rewards, it’s important to understand what matters most to employees. One message is clear, post 2020 and the shift to remote working during much of the pandemic: flexible working is here to stay. Polls by companies including recruitment company Michael Page, and HR and payroll software provider CIPHR both found that more free time outside of work was a top priority across different sectors. And an even bigger study of 10,000 participants by Remote found that 76% of employees want flexible working hours.
So, what does this tell us? It tells us that rewards and benefits are part of a wider shift in working culture. You can’t offer ‘free time’ as a benefit, but you can offer working models that facilitate it, such as hybrid models that cut out long commute times, five days a week. And it comes back to creating a package of benefits that reflects what employees care about, beyond their day-to-day responsibilities.
What is the difference between a reward and benefit?
Benefits are distinct from rewards as they refer to how employees are compensated for their work. There are a certain number of statutory benefits that UK companies are legally obliged to offer as part of any contract of permanent employment. Statutory benefits include at least 28 days paid holiday leave (which can include public holidays), sick pay, parental leave (maternity/ paternity and shared leave) and pension schemes.
Non-statutory benefits vary between sectors and businesses, but typically include flexible-working, health insurance, performance bonuses and subsidised healthcare. Rewards are also known as perks, and can be a mix of gift cards, cash rewards, regular team social events and brand discounts. Some companies are signed up to schemes like Perkbox and Caboodle.
How important are rewards and benefits to prospective employees?
Benefits and rewards packages can make a difference to working culture. They’re proven to boost workplace productivity and morale, combat stress and help with retention, as acknowledged by market reports including one by the CIPD. And according to the 1000 UK workers polled in the CIPHR survey, pay and benefits ranked as the second most important aspect of a job, after work-life balance and above job security.
But with a growing number of potential benefits packages how do employers know which ones to prioritise? Here are five of the most common benefits and rewards UK employees currently value the most.
Flexible working: This Covid-19 pandemic has increased the case for flexible working, and more employees are prioritising more free time. Although remote and hybrid working have dominated the conversations around flexible working in the past couple of years, it’s worth remembering that it isn’t just about location. If a job has to be office or site based, consider the option of flexi time, with core hours that aren’t fixed to the 9-5.
Health insurance: There has been a surge in demand for healthcare benefits in the past couple of years too. Larger companies might offer comprehensive healthcare packages which could include private health insurance, dental insurance and even life insurance. But small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are increasingly offering private health insurance benefits too.
Bonuses and vouchers: During these times of economic uncertainty, bonuses are becoming increasingly important to staff. Most are tied to performance, while others are end of year or periodic bonuses. Companies including Monzo, Co-Operative Bank, British Airways and Morrisons all offered non target-specific bonuses including sign-on payments and cost-of-living bonuses during 2022.
Gym memberships: Demand for discounted gym memberships has also surged and are an increasingly attractive benefit for attracting and retaining talent.
Employee assistance / wellbeing programmes: These could be a mix of access to mental health and wellbeing services including a certain number of counselling sessions per year, mindfulness apps, or financial helplines.
Rewards and perks are a broader category, but data from Perkbox suggests that employees have similar priorities here too. There are five of the rewards that employees value the most at work.
- Employee discounts (Including restaurants, cinema, and supermarkets) as well as gym memberships)
- Greater recognition for work (Can be linked to performance bonuses or social / event-based incentives)
- Unlimited or extra holiday
- Free or discounted at home entertainment (Including streaming subscriptions to Netflix, Prime Video, Apple TV etc).
- Free breakfast or lunch
Perkbox also reported being allowed to work from home as a high priority too, but we’re classifying that as a benefit as it’s a long-term working policy, rather than a reward.
What are the top benefits being offered by companies
The key takeaways from the data on what employees are looking for is that they broadly fall into the following categories: Better work-life balance (flexible working), additional financial compensation and stability (bonuses and childcare vouchers). Insurance and healthcare, mental and physical wellbeing (discounted gym membership, access to mental health services, healthy snacks at work etc).
So, are companies and employees aligned when it comes to the benefits and priorities on offer? To answer that, we have collated examples from the kind of jobs our candidates are looking for in sectors including marketing, PR, digital, social media, events, copywriting, and design.
Here are five of the most common benefits currently being offered:
- Flexible Working: including fully remote, hybrid, multi-location options, and early Friday finish
- Private healthcare: insurance and well-being.
- Additional time off: including long service leave, volunteering/purpose days.
- Financial rewards and incentives: including bonuses and allowances.
- Discount schemes: Including gym memberships, retail discounts, and transport schemes like transport seasons ticket loans or cycle-to-work schemes.
What are the top reward-schemes being offered by companies at the moment?
Here are five popular employee schemes currently being offered by UK businesses:
- Make UK
- Staff Treats
What do current trends tell us about the importance of benefits and rewards to employees?
The good news is that companies are paying attention to what their employees value in terms of corporate benefits and rewards. And that is reflected in the job listings we’re seeing across all levels of seniority and salary bands.
Several companies also flagged ongoing training and professional development in their list of benefits. But this is arguably essential to talent retention and staff productivity, so therefore shouldn’t be classified as a benefit. Unsurprisingly, the biggest benefits packages were tied to premium job listings and larger companies. But there were at least one or two benefits listed under small company job postings too. The message is clear: when it comes to attracting and retaining talent – benefits and rewards do make a difference.
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