Flexible benefits offered by few UK employers

Just 14% of UK employers offer flexible benefits according to business consultancy Mercer.

It polled 1,700 organisations worldwide, including 135 in the UK. Mercer said 14% of UK respondents offer “a considerable amount” of flexibility in their employee benefits provision, while 28% provide some flexible benefits. About 71% plan to offer more flexibility in their benefits provision or are “looking into the possibility” of doing so, said Mercer.

The commonest benefit offered by UK employers polled is childcare vouchers (84%), followed by private medical care (75%), dental services (69%), cycle-to-work schemes (55%) and health screening (53%).

Jeffrey Fox, Mercer UK health and benefits consultant, said: “There is a growing rend towards tailoring employee benefits to individual needs, rather than offering a standard package for all. This recognises the fact that employees value their benefits more when adapted to their personal circumstances and, in the case of full-flex programmes, when they also understand the costs involved.

“In the current economic climate, many companies have had to hold back on salary and bonus increase, so are focusing on changes to their benefits programmes to motivate employees. Offering greater choice is one area that is popular.”

UK respondents were asked to name their priorities for the next one to three years. Their responses included:

  • To demonstrate to employees the value of their benefits (62%)
  • To curtail the increase in the costs of benefits provision (45%)
  • To protect the health of employees’ family members (9%)
  • To prevent misuse of benefits (such as through fraudulent claims) 8%

Less than 60% of UK respondents said they included pensions in their benefits choices programmes. But Mercer said that with the growth of defined contribution plans, pensions “are likely to become a more popular element of flex programmes in future”.

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