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UK SMEs urged to take employee benefits more seriously — and fast

  • 37% of UK SMEs haven’t reassessed staff benefits since the start of the pandemic, despite 78% stating benefits are key to retaining talent
  • Instead, SMEs considered bonuses (46%), upping salaries (42%) and remote working (34%) all more important
  • However, as ‘The Big Quit’ takes hold, 40% of employees said a better benefits package would sway them towards a new employer

According to new research by leading employee benefits provider Unum UK, 37% of UK SMEs (employers with 250 or fewer employees) have not reassessed the quality of their business’s employee benefits since the start of the pandemic.

Despite over three quarters (78%) of SME decision makers believing employee benefits are critical to recruitment and retention, a third (32%) have no plans to implement any changes to help improve the quality of their employee benefits in the future.

Instead, 46% of those surveyed would opt to pay out bonuses to retain key staff members, increase salaries (42%) or facilitate remote and hybrid working policies (34%) before considering workplace benefits.

However, the tide is beginning to turn as companies wake up to the importance of employee benefits. When asked what changes their business has put in place, or plans to put in place, to improve the quality of its employee benefits offering, 28% of SME decision makers said they planned to survey their staff to find out what benefits they want, while 26% have already or will soon introduce a new range of benefits.

These findings come as Unum’s wider research highlighted the value employees place on high-quality wellbeing benefits and workplace support amid ‘The Big Quit’.

The message is that underestimating the value employees place on benefits risks losing staff loyalty in the long run. 23% of employees quit their jobs, or plan to, due to a lack of employee benefits and 40% said they would be swayed towards a new employer if better, more high-quality employee benefits were on offer.

Among companies which have re-assessed their benefits offering since March 2020:

  • 48% were prompted to do so after listening to the changing needs of their staff
  • 21% recognised they were struggling to attract new staff with their current benefits package
  • 20% knew their competition offered better packages

Mark Till, CEO of Unum commented:

“As SMEs reassess their company offerings — including their employee benefits — to fit the changing needs of staff, they shouldn’t assume money means everything. Bonuses and pay rises are of course welcome in an environment of rising inflation, but both current employees and future recruits clearly place a value on their broader employee benefits packages that cannot be expressed in pounds and pence. Overlooking this has the real potential to put staffing levels at risk in an increasingly competitive external market.”

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