Benefits Briefing: May 2017

In a month of general election manifestos, it's likely that the Green’s proposal for a four-day working week was popular among employees

Benefits Briefing: May 2017

2nd May

Should staff sort out their own financial education?

In what could be a blow to more widespread employer-run financial education programmes, new research has found bosses think employees should be responsible for their own financial health. According to financial adviser Chase De Vere, which surveyed 10,000 employers and 300 HR decision makers, a significant 29% of employers thought workers should take responsibility for their own financial affairs, an increase of 25% since 2006. The research found 58% of employers still intended to help their staff make informed retirement choices, although only 42% said there was any corporate appetite to pay for it.


5th May

Shocking figures revealed by EAP research

Research launched to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week revealed that nearly two-fifths of all calls to employee assistance programmes (EAPs) relate to anxiousness and depression – and, shockingly, there was a 40% rise in calls reporting this last year. The research by Lifeworks also found demands for emotional support through EAPs was up 27% last year, creating a cumulative rise of 55% in the last three years. More worrying still for employers, some 10% of callers claimed their performance at work was being impaired by the cause of their phone call.


8th May

£42,000 fine for being ‘too busy’ to auto-enroll staff

Independent shoe retailer Johnsons Shoes faces a £42,000 bill for being ‘too busy’ to enroll its staff into a pension scheme following the most high-profile automatic enrolment court case to date. Although the store was sent repeated reminders that non-compliance would trigger a £2,500 daily fine after missing its 30th September deadline, it was not until the fine reached £40,000 that the shop became compliant. It was also told to pay £2,000 in court fees. Charles Counsell, TPR’s Executive Director of Automatic Enrolment, said: “Our message is clear: fail to comply with the law and you may be fined. Fail to pay your fine and we may take you to court.”


May 10th

Government urged to rethink bereavement benefit cuts

Baroness Altmann called on the government to reconsider its recent cut to bereavement benefits. Under new rules, around £80 a month is paid, tax-free, and only for a maximum of 18 months. Before 6th April a surviving parent was entitled to £112 per week until the youngest child left full-time education under the Widowed Parents Allowance rules. “I truly believe the government should think again about bereavement benefits when young children are involved,” said the former DWP minister. “Stopping payments after just 18 months can’t be enough time for them to have coped and moved on.”


11th May

Third of workers to work beyond 65 due to insufficient pension savings

A whopping 36% of people expect to have to work beyond what was traditionally ‘retirement age’, according to new research. A survey of 1,004 employees found more than a third will have to work past 65 specifically because they don’t have enough pension savings, rather than for any other reason, while 10% expect to be in their 80s before they can retire. However, some 57% of respondents said they worry about whether they will stay healthy for the time they need to be in employment for. A stark picture indeed.


15th May

Benefits for retention or attraction?

Benefits are mostly regarded as an employee retention tool, according to a poll by Staffcare. It’s annual Benefits Research 2017 report fund that 82% of respondents said benefits are used for retention, just pipping attraction at 81%. Other reasons firms said they offered benefits to support health and wellbeing initiatives (80%) and to support the employer brand (61%). Just 13% thought they ‘had’ to offer them, while 14% of employer respondents said benefits were cheaper to offer than salary, and had a higher perceived value.


16th May

43% of workers say bosses put attendance ahead of health

More than 18 million workers risk further ill health each year by hauling themselves into work when they should have stayed at home. And they do so because they fear their boss values their attendance more than their wellness, according to Aviva’s Working Lives report. It found almost half (43%) of 6,000 employees surveyed said their boss placed business performance ahead of their health, while 41% admitted they worried about work piling up when they were off sick. “Businesses need to ensure they create a working culture where people do not feel pressured into coming to work when they are unwell, safe in the knowledge their absence can be effectively managed,” said Dr Doug Wright, medical director at Aviva UK Health.


17th May

Half of employees borrow to meet day-to-day needs

Half of workers are so cash-strapped, they’re turning to lenders just to meet their basic daily needs. This is the shocking finding by payroll lending company, Neyber. It finds a quarter of people’s earnings fluctuate by more than 10% each month – mainly because they are on zero hours contracts. It also found that while 39% of employers think their staff would approach them for financial help, only 3% of staff said they would actually do this. Overall, Neyber found 48% of workers borrowed money to meet their basic financial needs – rising to 67% for those under 34 years of age – and that 42% of staff are now looking to their employer for more guidance and support.


22nd May

Brexit? What Brexit?

Only 3% of employers believe Brexit will have any bearing on their employee benefits strategy for 2017, according to Staffcare. Instead, 72% of employer respondents cited a desire to improve their employee benefits strategy this year as the top issue that would shape their thinking. This was just above being seen as an ‘employer of choice’ (65%), and having to respond to employee influence or expectation (54%). Interestingly, having to deal with an aging workforce was only rated 15th out of the 27 issues HR heads had to choose between. Firms were more likely to worry about aligning benefits with business strategy (43%) and tax and legislative changes (34%) than this. Brexit was the lowest issue on their radar.


May 24th

Right to request fixed hours ‘likely’

The much anticipated Taylor Inquiry into modern working practices is predicted to call for those on zero hours contracts to be given the right to request fixed hours, reports HR magazine. It says Taylor believes many workers are being exploited by businesses using the much-derided contracts. Peter Cheese, chief executive at the CIPD, said “Allowing workers to request more consistent hours of work builds on their existing right to request more flexible hours of work, and is a logical step.”

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Four-day week? Yes please (but don’t bet your house on it)…

May was dominated by the publication of each political party’s general election manifestos. Many have generated much press coverage but beneath the radar, it was The Greens that had the most interesting proposal of all: a four-day working week. Co-leader Caroline Lucas pledged to phase in a ‘new kind of economy’, where a four-day week would be the norm, and a maximum working week of 35 hours would be imposed. But before we all rejoice, let’s remember this is unlikely to become a reality. In 2015, the Greens took only a 3.8% share of the popular vote, and it only has a single MP. Maybe not this time around, eh?

Saturday 19 August 2017
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