Paid time off to see doctors tops benefits league

Paid time off for dental and medical appointments, childcare vouchers and private medical insurance are the top three staff benefits offered by employers, according to research by Personnel Today’s sister publication Employment Review.

The survey of 277 organisations – employing 1.35 million employees – shows that paid time off for dental and medical appointments is the most common benefit offered to workers, provided by 80.1% of employers.

Childcare subsidies, in the form of vouchers or a childcare allowance, are the second most common benefit offered by employers, available at 70.8% or organisations, while private medical insurance is provided by 69.3% of organisations.

The trend for flexible benefits remains stable. The findings show 12.5% of organisations either already have such a scheme in place, or were in the process of implementing one, while 33.9% said they were considering introducing one. However, these figures are slightly down on 2007.

However, voluntary benefits – a cheaper alternative to flexible benefits, where staff are offered discounts on a range of internal and external products and services – are still proving a popular option, with 21.8% of employers either offering or intending to introduce such a scheme. This is almost twice as many as last year.

Such plans tend to include health-related benefits (such as permanent health insurance and gym membership), discounts for external retailers, childcare vouchers, and travel insurance.

Salary-sacrifice arrangements – where staff can swap some of their gross earnings for benefits – are also a popular provision, provided by 42.9% of employers. And another 1.6% are in the process of implementing them.

The findings show that few organisations actively measure the amount they spend on benefits. Just 22 respondents were able to provide information on these costs. Their results indicate the median benefits spend when excluding pensions is 6% of the pay bill, with actual figures ranging from 0.01% at one organisation, to 20% at another. The median benefits cost, including pensions, is 17%, with figures ranging from 2.48%, to 35%.

Subsidised car parking and interest-free loans for car parking and the London congestion charge, proved the least popular benefits among employers.

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