National intermediary Partners & is today warning employers not to take “knee-jerk” spending decisions in response to the Bank of England’s prediction of a five-quarter recession.
Steve Herbert, Wellbeing and Benefits Director at Partners&, said: “We completely understand – and fully accept – that faced with such grim economic predictions many employers will need to adjust their spending commitments to ride-out the recession ahead. Yet our very real concern is that some employee benefits offerings might be surrendered as part of any such review. We genuinely believe that this would be a mistake.”
Partners& is also keen to remind employers that the economic downturn is far from the only significant business challenge to be faced.
Covid-19 remains a very real risk, with numbers remaining stubbornly high and further mutations possible in the winter months ahead. Long Covid continues to be a challenge too, with the latest Office for National Statistics figures suggesting that 761,000 people in the UK have experienced such conditions for a year or longer, of which 380,000 had suffered for over two years.
Other employee health concerns include the reality that a short-staffed NHS remains overwhelmed is many areas and may not be able to provide the rapid support and treatments that employees and employers would usually expect. Another worry is that the mental health of many workers remains fragile, a situation clearly not helped by the acute pressures and stresses of the cost-of-living crisis.
Herbert continued: “As we witnessed during the worst of the Covid-19 crisis, employee benefit insurances and protections are often at their most valuable, important, and useful when times are tough, and when employers have limited financial options available to support their workers. A good employee benefits offering should offer important protections, useful support features, and of course offer a viable route towards full health and a speedy return to work.”
Partners& also highlight the continuing concerns around recruitment and retention in the United Kingdom. This issue remains a very real headwind for employers, and whilst a recession may well result in an increase in unemployment, the UK could still face candidate shortages and skills gaps next year.
Herbert concluded: “The reality is that 2023 looks set to be a really difficult year on so many levels. We are working with clients already to ensure that they are equipped to weather the coming economic storm and build resilience into their business so that they can be in a position to bounce-back quickly once things eventually improve.
Now, more than ever, employers will need to retain their best employees, whilst also attracting what new talent is available. Employers will also need to do everything they can to keep their workforce fit, healthy, and productive.”
Partners& is encouraging organisations of all sizes to revisit their employee benefits package to ensure that their offering is robust, cover or support is universally available, and that any value-added tools are identified, promoted, and used by employees in the difficult months ahead.