Employers must ensure staff understand benefits, says report

23 September 2015 by
Employers must ensure staff understand benefits, says report

Employers must ensure that staff understand how to maximise their benefits, amid a culture in which workers would rather have staff perks and save for a house instead of receiving a higher wage or an office pension, a new study has found.

That's according to a report from Davidson Asset Management (DAM), which advised employers that they had a responsibility to help staff plan for the future via measures such as pensions, as well as mortgage planning advice and salary exchanges for other long-term benefits.

The study asked six top hospitality business leaders, 439 online survey respondents and a focus group of business and finance students their views on employee benefits and businesses' responsibility to administer them.

Overall, just under half of all respondents (48%) believed that mortgage advice was a useful benefit that they would like their employer to provide, while 87% believe that it is the employer's responsibility to explain how employees can get the most out of their package, and more than a third (36%) would like to be given retirement planning advice.

Millennials under 30 value company cars and childcare benefits more than Generation X and baby boomers, while older employees are more likely to value flexible benefits and private medical insurance.

Those under 30 are also more likely to value enhanced maternity and paternity benefits, mortgage advice, support for family planning, reimbursement for degrees, retirement planning and unlimited holiday allowance; while those over 30 are more likely to champion their ability to access pensions from 55, alongside greater retirement planning and legal advice.

Employees would also like to see employers offering benefits such as pet insurance, marriage bonuses and financial support for further education.

Industry leaders interviewed for the report comprised Robert Allan, director of HR at Apex Hotels; Jane Sunley, chief executive of HR consultancy Purple Cubed; Zuleika Fennell, chief operating officer at Corbin & King; Marianne Barlow, HR director at Jumeriah; Sean Wheeler, then-regional HR director at the Dorchester Collection and now HR director at Starwood Capital, and Esther O'Halloran, chair of HR in hospitality and founder of EOH Solutions.

Business-wise, the Dorchester Collection was recognised as an example of a hotel whose HR department has started to offer one-to-one benefits reviews so that employees could understand how best to maximise their benefits as their life circumstances change. The company also offers mortgage advice sessions, and claims that these measures have helped to drive up employee retention.

Sean Wheeler, director of HR at Starwood Capital and former UK regional director of human resources at Dorchester Collection, said: "Property is booming right now and so I can see why interest in property is growing faster than pensions. This is why people want to invest; it's immediate and people can make a return quickly. In the future, benefits such as private medical insurance will be more important as the NHS is under strain and pensions will be more important with lower state pensions. Ultimately benefits will need to be focused on the areas in which employers want to retain staff."

Jane Sunley, chief executive of HR consultancy Purple Cubed, added: "In the future, employees will see more value in benefits that enhance their work-life balance (flexible working, home working or buying holiday)."

Zuleika Fennell, chief operating officer at Corbin & King, said: "There is huge confusion around benefits - staff want money because it's more tangible, but they need benefits in terms of looking after their financial future and security, particularly for those with families. As priorities change, benefits need to change to match them and my team see it as our job to educate employees on this journey."

The report and findings will be launched at a breakfast event on 1 October, which is to include a debate with Zuleika Fennell (Corbin and King), Steve Rockey (Big Easy) and Stacey Lawrence (the Dorchester), on the challenges employers face with regards to employee benefits now and in the future.

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