A once in a generation shift in employee benefits and wellbeing is expected this year, as SMEs review their benefits and wellbeing programmes in response to the pandemic or look to invest in benefits for the first time, says Mark Fosh, Divisional Director, Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing.

Fosh says, “We will see a seismic shift in employee benefits and wellbeing. Businesses of all sizes are reviewing their benefits on a scale we have not seen for a long time. What worked pre-Covid may not be right for the new world of work where remote and flexible working are more common-place and workers are experiencing different health and wellbeing challenges as a result of the pandemic.’’

“SMEs need to ensure their benefits are fit for purpose, now and for the future, and provide value for money. And for organisations new to benefits, they need to consider the best approach to support their business and employees. In 2022, there will be more focus on recruiting and retaining talented employers so benefits will play a significant role in attracting and keeping staff.”

In December 2021, the Centre for Economic Performance[i] reported that half of businesses are struggling to recruit staff. Increasing numbers of people are leaving their jobs and one in five employers are raising the issue of how to retain staff.

According to new data from MetLife’s Re:me report, a focus on employee benefits could support retention, as they highlight that one in two workers would sacrifice more of their basic salary to get a personalised employee benefits package[ii].

One notable trend is greater numbers of SMEs providing access to private healthcare – against the backdrop of growing NHS waiting times for diagnosis and treatment.

Fosh commented: “A growing numbers of SMEs are considering offering access to some form of employer-funded healthcare to their people. Protection benefits such as life assurance, income protection and healthcare focused benefits such as private medical insurance (PMI) and virtual GPs are becoming popular features within revised benefit offerings.”

“Private medical insurance often costs less than SMEs think, and regularly tops the list of benefits employees value the most. It can be a cost-effective solution; giving both employers and employees peace of mind that they can access the support they need, when they need it most.”

Steve Herbert, Head of Benefits Strategy, Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing believes financial education and wellbeing will be another focus for SMEs.

Herbert says, “A big challenge in 2022 will be the growing financial pressures upon employees. Many will face a cost-of-living crisis, made worse by further interest rate increases and the rising retail price index. This will put additional demands on employees when some are already feeling the pinch. Equipping staff with workplace financial education could help them to better plan their financial futures and alleviate money worries.”

Herbert concludes, “We recommend that companies start the New Year with a review to ensure they are offering the most appropriate benefits for employees, as well as making the most of their existing investment into benefits.

“Many benefit policies such PMI and Group Income Protection often include value added features such as Employee Assistance Programmes or virtual GPs as standard, which may be under used. And following the pandemic, many insurers have reviewed their products to add digital solutions or new features to meet employees’ changing needs. As SMEs look beyond the pandemic, now is a real opportunity for employers to rethink their approach to benefits and wellbeing.”

For SMEs investing in benefits for the first time in 2022, there are a wide range of options available. Howden has created a useful guide to help set out the options. Click here to download the guide.

For more information, please visit www.howdengroup.co.uk


[i] https://news.sky.com/story/half-of-businesses-struggling-to-recruit-because-of-skills-gap-survey-finds-12495086

[ii] https://employeebenefits.co.uk/50-staff-would-give-up-more-salary-benefits/

Lisa Baker

Author Lisa Baker

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