'Wasted investment' | 1 in 4 workers don't use their company benefits

1 in 4 workers don't use their company benefits

More than a quarter of Britain’s workers aren’t using their workplace benefits packages, a new study has found.

A Censuswide survey of 2,005 British workers has found that more than 1 in 4 aren’t making the most of their workplace benefits, despite 91% of respondents being aware of the benefits on offer to them - pointing to a disconnect between what workers want and what they're being offered.

Commissioned by Juno, a platform democratising employee benefits, the survey found that the vast majority of respondents were aware of all the employee benefits currently offered by their company (although awareness tails off amongst over-55s).

But a significant gap emerged between the awareness and uptake of benefits. Asked whether they made use of their benefits, just 28% of respondents answered ‘always’, whilst 27% answered ‘no’. Uptake also declined consistently with age, and was lower amongst women. Evolving workplace benefits have become essential ammunition in the war for talent and can help individuals offset living costs and save for the future. But it’s clear that current schemes, which tend to remain fixed and inflexible, are failing to keep pace with the needs of staff.

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Ally Fekaiki, founder of Juno, commented: “The gap between awareness and uptake of workplace benefits points to a worrying disconnect between employees’ needs and the support available to them.

“Despite most people knowing what’s on offer, the majority aren’t always using them. That’s a massive waste of investment for the companies, as well as a missed opportunity to engage with and support staff.

“Individual employees know best what serves their health and happiness. Empowering staff to choose their own benefits is the best way to ensure optimum take up, minimise waste, and maximise employee satisfaction.”

The importance of employee benefits

The findings above make for surprising reading, and the rate of workers not using the benefits available to them will perplex many a HR leader, particularly with previous studies suggesting that many workers value benefits over their salary.

In fact, one in two employees would sacrifice more of their basic salary to get a personalised employee benefits package, new research from global life insurance provider MetLife has found.

The research was conducted as part of MetLife’s Re:Me report, which looks at how the pandemic has shifted attitudes in the workplace. Among its findings is the discovery that 69% of employers say they’d work harder for an employer who provided benefits that were tailored to their individual needs.

The Re:Me report is among current research demonstrating that attitudes to work have shifted during the pandemic, and that salary size is no longer the biggest sole motivating factor for employees when it comes to job expectations and satisfaction. MetLife found that the traditional benefits package and desired employee perks have “evolved” since the start of the pandemic.

What’s also shifted is the expectation that the creation of a benefits package is not something dreamt up by bosses, but more of a collaborative process between employer and employee. Almost two in three (62%) employees want to ‘shape their benefit packages with their boss’.

And they’re not looking for “soft” perks like gym membership or employee discounts (many of which, in any case, became obsolete during lockdown and the peak of the pandemic). Income protection was the 13th most desired benefit prior to the pandemic; MetLife’s research discovered that it now stands at 3rd, with a further 58% of employees stating that they’d like their benefits package to cover all their dependents, including their spouse.

This clearly indicates that employees are looking to the future, not just worrying about the present.

The research also found that employers had noticed the shift in employee attitudes to benefit packages, with 63% saying that they’d seen an increase in employee enquiries about benefits since the start of the pandemic. 61% claimed to have noticed a need for mental wellbeing products.

It’s been well-documented that the pandemic was extremely challenging from a mental health perspective for many people, including those in the workplace, who faced uncertainty, not just about the future of their own jobs, but their future health and wellbeing. Personal wellbeing has risen up the agenda for many employees, who are looking for a good work-life balance. It’s understandable that this has helped drive the shift uncovered by MetLife’s research towards a workplace where employees feel looked after and valued by their employers.

The challenge now is for employers to adapt to this change in attitude, and create the tailored benefits packages that employees desire. Otherwise, they risk losing out in a competitive jobs market where there’s a huge battle to attract and retain talent.

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“For years businesses have believed that higher pay and job security was the answer to a multitude of problems for employees and while they both remain vital, priorities have changed. Employees are now looking for a much more holistic approach to their benefits package,” commented Adrian Matthews, EB Director at MetLife UK.

“Ensuring that the benefit packages employers offer suits all members of the team is crucial to protect productivity and encourage loyalty for the long term. Our research found that more than two thirds (69%) of employees ‘will work harder for an employer who provides employee benefits that support my individual needs’. Employers must recognise how the needs of their employees will have changed in the past 12 months and work with them to find practical solutions that can be introduced quickly,” he added.

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