Paid sick leave tops the list of benefits and incentives that matter most to employees, according to new research by HR and payroll software provider CIPHR.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, after two years of pandemic-led disruption and rising living costs, among the most popular employee benefits are those which help supplement squeezed incomes, support people’s health, and encourage work-life balance.
For over two-thirds (67%) of the 1,001 people polled, sick pay is the employee benefit that they value most, followed by flexible working hours (57%) and pension contribution matching (46%) – where employers offer to match employees’ pension payments on top of the minimum auto-enrolment requirements.
Mental health and wellbeing support ranks fourth. Receiving a performance bonus and working a four-day week – enabling employees to earn the same wages for fewer hours – are in fifth and sixth place (selected by 40%, 39% and 37% of people respectively).
Next on the list, in seventh place, is extra holiday allowance, which, interestingly, was preferred by more people than unlimited paid leave (32% vs 18%).
Being able to save money on purchases via an employee discounts scheme (30%), having a flexible working location (27%), and receiving a market-value salary (26%) complete the employees’ top 10.
When it comes to employee benefits, every individual’s priorities differ and the order of importance varies depending on who is being asked. For workers over 45 years old, for example, getting their pension contributions matched (to help them build a bigger pension pot faster) appears to be more beneficial than being able to work flexible hours (59% vs 45%). For those under 45 years old, who are further away from retirement, it’s the opposite – with more people in this age group ranking flexible working hours higher than pension contribution matching (57% vs 42%).
There are also a few differences between what male and female survey respondents want from their employers’ benefits packages. Statistically, women place more importance on receiving help towards childcare assistance than a market-value salary (27% vs 21%). More men, on average, favour being awarded a performance bonus over being paid a market-value salary (45% vs 34%).
The top 15 most important benefits to employees, ranked by popularity, are:
- Paid sick leave (67%)
- Flexible working hours (57%)
- Pension contribution matching (46%)
- Mental health and wellbeing support (40%)
- Performance bonus (39%)
- Four-day work week on full-time pay (37%)
- Extra holiday allowance (32%)
- Employee discounts scheme (30%)
- Flexible working location (27%)
- Market-value salary (26%)
- Childcare assistance (23%)
- Health insurance or cash-back plans (21%)
- Extra paid day off for birthdays (21%)
- Extended paid parental leave (20%)
- Death benefits (18%)
- Unlimited paid leave (18%)
What do employers think?
To discover how closely employer’s opinions on benefits and incentives align with employees, CIPHR conducted a separate survey on the same topic to 332 UK-based businesses.
When compared, the results highlight numerous differences between the benefits and incentives that employers believe are the most important to their employees and what employees actually value the most. Overall, employers only ranked six of 25 benefits in the same order as employees – indicating perhaps that many organisations are not meeting employees’ benefits expectations and are missing opportunities to improve employee experience and engagement levels.
The top 10 benefits that employers think matter most to employees are:
- Mental health and wellbeing support
- Flexible working hours
- Paid sick leave
- Flexible working location
- Performance bonus
- Four-day work week on full-time pay
- Extra holiday allowance
- Health insurance or cash-back plans
- Childcare assistance
- Pension contribution matching
- Market-value salary
Commenting on the results, Matt Russell, chief commercial officer at CIPHR, says: “It is surprising to see such a disconnect between the benefits that employees value and what employers think – especially given how important good rewards and benefits packages are to attracting and retaining top talent and for supporting a great employee experience.
“There is no one model or benefits scheme that works for every organisation. Employers need to spend time listening to their own employees to understand their needs and priorities and what benefits they want and value. For example, things like employee discounts, childcare assistance, and health or dental insurance, can go a long way to helping employees through the current cost-of-living crisis. And, what was once more important, pre-2020, has now been superseded by other benefits that reflect the growing shift to remote working and the desire for more flexibility at work.
“It won’t always be possible to deliver on every specific benefits request but organisations that can act on employee feedback, wherever possible, and provide agile and flexible benefits schemes are more likely to have a happier and engaged workforce.”