Benefits briefing: April 2017

Recent research and data from across the industry to help your benefits strategy work harder

Benefits briefing: April 2017
When it comes to retaining staff at risk of leaving, flexible working is the benefit that works hardest

3rd April

Paying the living wage boosts employer reputation

A whopping 86% of employees working for organisations that voluntarily pay the living wage (which is calculated to be necessary for a basic standard of living, and is significantly higher than the Government’s national living wage), believe doing so improves the reputation of that business. This is according to research carried out by The Living Wage Foundation and Cardiff Business School among 800 organisations – from SMEs to FTSE 100 firms. It also found that 64% of respondents thought the living wage helped differentiate their organisation from competitors in the same industry. The retail industry reported a significant increase in employee motivation since becoming a living wage accredited organisation, with 62% also seeing an improvement in staff retention.

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4th April

‘Millions of employers’ yet to review gender pay

Just days before the arrival of mandatory gender pay reporting, a Total Jobs survey reported that 32% of organisations still hadn’t reviewed pay differences, while 82% hadn’t reviewed their gender equality pay policy at all. Chloe Chambraud, gender research and policy manager at Business in the Community, described the findings as “saddening but not surprising.”

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4th April

What’s the ‘hardest working’ staff retention perk?

When it comes to retaining staff most at risk of quitting, flexible working could be the hardest working perk. One4All’s Loyalty Premium Report 2017 revealed that 91% of people who had just resigned would reconsider their decision based on a very limited set of options. It found 23% of people would stay if they got a promotion, while 19% would stay for a higher salary. The research also found 17% could still be persuaded to remain with their employer if they were able to work from home. This single benefit trumped getting improvements to the benefit package generally. Only 15% said they would stay for an overall ‘better benefits’ package, and 8% said they would stay if they got a company car.

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7th April

Training strategies need to cater for older workers

Employers must ensure their training and development policies include up-skilling older workers – those typically less well catered for – according to a report by the Skills Commission. With greater numbers of older people choosing to work beyond traditional retirement age, plus predictions that by 2022, there will be 12.5 million vacancies, but only 7 million young people to fill them, the commission argues that there is now a compelling argument for enhancing the skills of older workers. Report chair Peter Mayhew-Smith said older workers now comprise the largest pool of untapped potential in Britain. “With the challenges that lie ahead, it’s crucial we build on their wealth of skills, experience and collective wisdom,” he added.

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11th April

Early access to pensions encourages more saving

There was concern that the pension freedoms would encourage employees to raid their savings, but it turns out that they’re actually encouraging people to save at higher levels. New data reveals 14% of the population (5.5 million people) is saving more as a direct result of pension freedoms, with the average retirement pot swelling from £29,000 to £50,000 in the last two years. It also found people’s aspirations had become more realistic (most wanted a retirement income of £32,000 – down from £41,000 in 2015), while the number of employees engaging with pensions advisors has doubled in the last year.

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12th April

Positive signs all round for group risk market

Swiss Re’s annual Group Watch report has revealed strong demand for group risk, with the number of new members covered by these policies growing by 4.5% compared to the previous year. It finds the number of employees covered by group risk has grown to 12 million. The report also revealed that the number of insured policies grew for the first time in more than 10 years, while Critical Illness policies continued to do well with in-force sums assured up 9% and premiums up by 11.5%. However, not everything was quite so positive. The report called upon the UK government to reconsider its decision not to grant an exemption from new salary sacrifice restrictions affecting Excepted Group Life and Long-Term Disability Income policies.

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18th April

Pension pot data reveals gender differences

The average pension pot for women is barely one-third the size of a man’s – £24,900 compared to £73,600 – according to new data. Career breaks and historically lower pay are cited as the primary reasons, but the data also highlights low levels of interest in pensions, finding that 42% of women have never reviewed, or taken any action, that might improve their retirement. The research finds only 19% of women have engaged with their pension in the last six months, compared to 24% of men. However, it’s not all bad news. More encouraging is the finding that women’s ISA savings used specifically for retirement are growing fast – rising from £5,400 in 2015 to £14,900 today.

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18th April

Zero hours ‘premium rate’ under consideration

Matthew Taylor – the man currently looking at how the government and employers need to react to the so-called ‘gig economy’ – has revealed some of his early thoughts in an interview with the Financial Times. He suggested that applying a premium rate for zero hours contracts could act as a deterrent to ‘lazy employers’ and force them to create full-time jobs instead. He said: “The problem in the labour market is not security of work, it’s security of income.” He added: “We’ve been hearing about people in the social care sector who are told ‘be ready to leave the house at 7am in the morning’, but are then phoned and told ‘no we haven’t any work for you today’.” However, he also said lots of ideas are still up for discussion.

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19th April

Benefits communications found woefully lacking

A staggering 43% of employer respondents have admitted they don’t provide regular updates to staff about their employee benefits offering. Chase De Vere and Lightbulb’s survey of 300 senior HR decision makers found only 57% gave regular updates to all staff about their benefits – despite the fact nearly a quarter (23%) accepted that a competitive benefits package was critical to attracting and retaining top quality staff. The research revealed that 56% of respondents used meetings to tell staff about employee benefits and pensions, 52% put information in a staff handbook, 32% conducted seminars to communicate benefits to staff and 29% used automated trigger letters.

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20th April

Employers beginning to eye up Lifetime ISAs as an alternative to pensions

Seventy per cent of large employers are considering offering either a Lifetime ISA (Lisa) or Workplace ISA (Wisa) as an alternative to a pension – with 13% of these saying it is likely or very likely this will happen in just the next five years – according to new findings by Willis Towers Watson. Around half of the organisations surveyed said they anticipated letting employees exchange employer pension contributions for cash, so that they could choose which vehicle they saved into. Willis Towers Watson senior consultant Minh Tran, said: “Our research suggests the Lisa and Wisa are set to become an integral part of workplace savings in the very near future and that a clear trend of early adopters has started to emerge.”

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23rd April

Firms ‘do’ want to use Brexit to roll back employment protection laws

More than 70% of UK financial firms have admitted they ‘do’ want to use Brexit to tear up a whole host of EU laws – including those that allow staff on long-term sick leave to roll over their holiday pay, according to a survey of 43 firms questioned by GQ Employment Law. The survey also found that 56% of employers wanted the requirement to pay employees an amount for overtime during holiday to be reversed.

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AND FINALLY…

A story that’s just the ticket?

We’ve all heard of that essential employee perk, the ever-useful season ticket loan. But what happens if staff lose their annual pass? Virgin Trains announced it was solving this very common problem by offering customers the opportunity to have their annual season ticket tattooed directly onto their wrists. The tattoo features special ink [‘Tick-Ink’] that can be read by ticket machine scanners. John Sullivan, chief innovation officer at Virgin Trains, said: “We receive hundreds of calls from customers about missing or misplaced season tickets every year and we wanted to provide people with a clever way of always having their ticket on them.” Hold on – what day did that story came out? April 1st? Ah, well, it’s got to be true then…

Sunday 25 June 2017
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