When it comes to encouraging your staff to be productive, there is no one magic solution. It will depend on many factors such as pay; working conditions; annual leave allowances; flexibility with regards to working hours; supervision; variety of activities; ability to control some aspects of the job; as well as where the employee is in their career etc. Those just starting out will have very different ideas about what they value to those of us who have been working for decades!
However, recently I have been asked by several clients about the sort of benefits that they can offer to their employees. There are pros and cons to all of them and it will depend on whether you are using the benefits as a means to incentivise or reward people. For example, gym membership or shopping discount schemes may only appeal to certain employees. Certainly some of the schemes previously offered by some employers are no longer viable with the government’s removal of some salary sacrifice benefits.
Nevertheless, generally the most important benefit, after a decent rate of pay, as perceived by the majority of all employees is a good pension scheme. There have been various surveys over the years and this one generally comes out top. It applies equally to young and old alike so making sure that the scheme you have chosen is well managed, with good investments and is likely to keep their contributions safe will help them feel secure and less likely to look elsewhere for a new job. Just going for the cheapest scheme is not necessarily the best solution as you may find that you end up having to do all the administration and it may therefore cost your business more in the long run.
From my interactions with clients and their employees, it seems to me that they like the health insurance schemes that provide cashback for dentist and optician fees as well as pay for physiotherapy treatments and other diagnostic tests. Many of these schemes are a win:win. They are tax efficient and cost little to the employer (typically £1 to £2 per week per employee) and the benefits perceived by the employee are significant. More importantly, they often include confidential helplines that you can rely upon as support for the employees if you have any potential claims of work-related stress. In addition, getting early diagnosis and treatment of common ailments such as bad backs etc. mean that your employees are likely to be off work for shorter periods of time than they might otherwise if they had to wait for an NHS appointment.
The other aspect I have been asked about recently is childcare vouchers. The current schemes will only be open to those who are members as of April 2018 and as such it may not be sensible to set one up now if you haven’t got one in place already. But the government has been gradually replacing that scheme with a tax-beneficial savings scheme. As an employer, you do not have to do anything to administer this, but making it known to your employees could help them enormously. See https://www.childcarechoices.gov.uk/
The amount of paid annual leave you offer another benefit that is relatively easy to administer. All employees are entitled to 5.6 weeks of annual leave per year, but many employers offer enhanced leave, sometimes related to length of service as a reward during the first 5 years of service. Alternatively, you could offer enhanced leave allowance in exchange for a reduction in salary – in effect “buying” some additional time off – but make sure that anyone doing this does not reduce their pay rate below the statutory minimum or you could end up in trouble!
Increasing sick pay from the statutory sick pay level is another benefit that you can consider – but I would recommend looking at this carefully to ensure that you do not put in place benefits that cannot be sustained by your business, so careful drafting of the terms is important.
Sometimes I am asked about paying attendance bonuses as an incentive. These are fraught with difficulty because you have to exclude all absences allowed on statutory grounds, such as maternity appointments or any that could discriminate e.g. an absence related to a disability etc. However, the key question for me is why would you pay someone twice for doing their job? Paying bonuses for reaching certain stretching targets is quite different to simply paying someone to turn up to work.
As I indicated above, there are other benefits you can consider such as shopping discounts or other perks, but getting the basics right first – and letting your employees know the value of the benefits you are giving them is really important. If you do not set it out explicitly, they may take things for granted and not realise how good it is to work for you until they have left to work for a competitor, only to find that they had been better off with you!
If you want to review the benefits you are offering your staff and would like some help, please get in touch.