Employee benefits vital as only one in four receive pay rise

The importance of offering cost-effective employee benefits packages to staff may have been heightened by news that just one in four workers have had a pay rise this year.

New figures provided by the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) have shown that six per cent of workers have actually seen their salary cut since January.

Workers in the public sector could be in the most need of perks to boost their motivation, as they were found to be the worst affected by wage freezes.

Performance and reward advisor for the CIPD Charles Cotton said inflation was playing havoc with all employees, including those who have seen their pay go up.

“Even those who are lucky enough to get an increase in their pay will find it below the current cost of living, compounding consumer belt-tightening,” he remarked.

A previous CIPD study showed that attitudes among UK workers are shifting, as more are now looking for new jobs that will pay more, rather than searching for roles that will make them happier.

Flexible benefits pay dividends for BT

BT workers who are able to operate away from the office thanks to company employee benefits plans are said to be more productive.

According to the network provider, more than 70,000 of its staff base have the capabilities to work remotely, with 13,000 opting to stay at home each day, City AM reports.

Business development and partnership director at the firm Jon Lane said those who take advantage of the perks have been found to be 21 per cent more productive than their colleagues who travel to the office each day.

Mr Lane suggested that allowing workers to be more flexible has cut down on sickness absence.

“We have also made significant savings from reduced accommodation costs and savings from recruitment and induction costs through better staff retention,” he added.

A recent study conducted by Virgin Media Business found that the rapid emergence of remote working has led 58 per cent of UK workers to believe that offices will be non-existent in ten years’ time.

Could 4G internet encourage flexible benefits?

Next year’s planned development of 4G internet connections across the UK may have a positive impact on employee benefits.

According to director of Broadband Expert Richard Patterson, the allocation of new spectrum is a “massive opportunity” for people who live in rural parts of the UK to receive faster internet.

This could enable more companies to introduce remote working as part of flexible benefits packages, as staff will be able to make use of the stronger service to operate from home.

Mr Patterson believes that Ofcom – which will be in charge of the spectrum auction in 2012 – should force major providers to boost their networks in the UK countryside.

“The second option is for government investment to subsidise areas that are not commercially viable for the mobile networks to cover,” he remarked.

These thoughts come after Ofcom’s own advisory panel suggested that the 4G auction should be geared towards helping out rural dwellers who have been blighted by poor internet provisions for years.

Workers ”don”t understand value of employee benefits”

More than half of UK workers do not appreciate the value of the employee benefits packages offered by their bosses.

This is the conclusion of a study conducted by Standard Life and Vebnet, which has indicated that managers may have to improve employee engagement in order to get staff to make full use of corporate perks.

One in four 18 to 25-year-olds were discovered not to use their benefits at all, despite 64 per cent of workers stating that such provisions were an important consideration when they come to take a job.

The most popular luxuries were pensions, flexi-time and financial bonuses.

“Benefits optimisation is becoming increasingly important to employers and it is an exciting time to be involved in the Rewards and Benefits industry,” commented Standard Life corporate managing director Stephen Ingledew.

A study by Friends Life recently showed that women would like a different approach to flexible benefits from their bosses, with many requesting childcare vouchers and remote working arrangements when they start to build their families.

Pay and employee benefits ”more important than job satisfaction”

An increasing number of workers are willing to sacrifice job satisfaction for better pay and employee benefits provisions.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) quarterly Employee Outlook study, 54 per cent of respondents want to change their job in order to secure a higher wage and more valuable staff perks.

Just 42 per cent said they were looking for a new role to improve their job satisfaction.

This could indicate that the economic downturn has had a big impact on the attitudes of UK workers, as happiness was the main consideration for jobseekers last year.

“Employees are feeling the squeeze as a result of pay freezes or low pay settlements that fail to keep up with inflation,” remarked CIPD senior public policy adviser Ben Willmott.

Last week, the CIPD suggested that more companies implemented flexible working arrangements during the recession in order to trim their wage bills without resorting to making redundancies.

Retirement decision may alter firms” employee benefits

Companies throughout the UK may find themselves altering their employee benefits offerings due to the scrapping of the default retirement age (DRA).

This is according to representatives at Legal & General, who have suggested the fact that people are working for much longer may force bosses to offer different perks.

Employee services director at the firm Glenn Laming believes the removal of the DRA “brings new challenges to employers”.

He also suggested that companies may wish to think long-term when tailoring new packages, as the state retirement age will rise to 66 in 2020 and 68 in 2046.

Head of strategy and proposition at Standard Life Jamie Jenkins believes that lengthening career spans will result in more managers offering health-based flexible benefits in the future.

“We’re going to see I think a greater emphasis around health care,” he remarked.

A recent study conducted by Prudential showed that 43 per cent of retirees lead a cautious lifestyle once their careers have finished due to financial constraints.

Childcare vouchers needed for ”unaffordable school holidays”

More than a third of working parents could be in desperate need of childcare vouchers from their employers over the next few weeks.

This is the proportion of adults who admitted during a poll conducted by LV= that the six-week school holiday is “unaffordable”.

On average, workers will spend £660 on each child throughout the summer break.

The firm’s Cost of a Child Report also revealed that £3.2 billion would be spent on childcare throughout the period, thus emphasising the need for employee benefits packages to help workers cover these costs.

Head of protection at LV= Mark Jones believes families will have to be shrewd to cope financially during the school holidays.

“Many parents look set to be resourceful this summer; making use of special offers and discounts and relying on extended family such as grandparents to help out with childcare,” he remarked.

A number of working mothers and fathers may be in a different position, as many children will now be leaving full-time education, thus nullifying the need for childcare vouchers, the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group recently stated.

More employers are introducing flexible benefits, CIPD says

The recession and the changing nature of the UK’s workforce have led to more companies offering employee benefits.

According to senior public policy adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Ben Willmott, employers were forced to become less rigid in their approach in order to maintain staff retention during the recession.

“From the aftermath of the financial crisis, we saw a lot of employers looking at flexible working solutions as a way of keeping people on while reducing working hours,” he remarked.

Mr Willmott also noted that more people are working into their later years, which has meant firms have needed to introduce schemes to ensure older employees are looked after.

In a CIPD study, six out of ten workers claimed to be happy with their work-life balance and said employee engagement levels were generally good.

Research by Virgin Media Business recently suggested that the concept of remote working would boom in the next ten years, as more bosses use the system to boost staff motivation.

Long-serving Asda workers receive bonus perks

Some of Asda’s longest serving workers have been handed additional holiday and pay perks by the firm’s bosses.

The supermarket chain was celebrating 15,000 years of collective service among 700 of its staff members, who were rewarded at a corporate event in Leeds, Employee Benefits magazine reports.

Each person who has amassed 25, 30 or 40 years of commitment to the company was granted an extra week of paid holiday and a bonus payment of £300.

Asda workers have been taking full advantage of flexible benefits offered by management, as a selection of employees recently spilt a £49 million payout through a share scheme.

People policy director at the chain Sarah Dickins told the publication: “It’s our way of celebrating and saying a huge thank you to our colleagues [employees] for the important role they play in looking after our customers over the years.”

Staff at Sports Direct could also have cause for optimism, as the firm enjoyed a profitable year, which led to bosses handing out shares to workers.

Choice to reduce staffing costs may have affected working hour figures

Additional unpaid holiday periods have been highlighted as one potential reason behind a slight overall decline in average working hours across the UK.

Office for National Statistics information has suggested that the average working week for a man in 2010 was 37.4 hours, compared to 38.1 hours in 2006.

For women, the change was even less notable – as 2006 figures suggested the average time spent at work was 29.6 hours, while 2010 information showed that this had fallen to 29.3 hours.

Senior public policy adviser for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development Ben Willmott has suggested that reduced demand caused by the recession may be behind the small decline.

He said the financial crisis caused some firms to reassess the perks handed out through employee benefits packages, with some staff being granted additional time off due to slow business.

“The key observation is that there has been very little change overall in working hours since 2006,” he added.

A recent study by MetLifeUK showed that one in three workers would swap holiday entitlement for better pay.