POSTED: September 06 2022
The Definitive Guide to Employee Benefits in the UK: What Are the Types, Costs & More?

The Definitive Guide to Employee Benefits in the UK

As a business owner, your workers are your biggest asset. And, in order to succeed in your field, you’ll need to ensure you can build and retain the strongest team possible.

In most industries, we’re now seeing more and more companies focusing on building out their employee benefit offerings in order to attract the top talent and keep workers happy while on the job. This is especially important right now, as skills shortages are wreaking havoc on a lot of sectors, making recruitment drives incredibly competitive. And, we’re also starting to see a shift in how people are choosing their next jobs — the salary is no longer the only factor, as people want to know they’re going to feel appreciated and that they’ll be able to enjoy a healthy work-life balance.

But what exactly do we class as “employee benefits”, what are the different types, and — perhaps most importantly — how much is a staff perks strategy likely to cost you? We’re going to cover all of that and more in this definitive guide to employee benefits in the UK. Read on to find out more.

What are employee benefits?

Employee benefits are extra incentives and rewards you can offer your workers, in addition to their salaries or wages. The idea is that these will help to boost the satisfaction and wellbeing of those who work for you.

If you want to win the best talent and get the most out of your staff, it’s vital that you offer all of your workers perks that they’ll truly feel the benefits of. Not only will this help to keep your workers happy, but it’s also good for business as a workforce that feels appreciated is typically more productive and easier to retain.

While, by law, there are certain benefits — such a pension scheme — that you must offer full-time employees, the majority of companies out there are now providing a lot more for their staff. And, if you don’t, there’s a high chance you’ll struggle to keep your best workers and you could be left behind the competition.

Why are employee benefits important?

Your employees are the lifeblood of your business, and you’ll want them to take great pride in their work so they show up each day and do their very best. And, offering a range of benefits they would struggle to find elsewhere is a great way to ensure they feel valued and rewarded for their hard work.

Most industries are now incredibly competitive when it comes to hiring new staff so, to attract the best possible talent — and then keep those workers engaged — you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd. And offering fantastic employee perks is a great way to do that. Jobseekers are becoming increasingly particular about what they want from their places of work, and you’ll really struggle to build and retain a strong team if you don’t prioritise employee satisfaction.

Plus, investing in your staff engagement and wellbeing will lead to better work, because happier employees tend to be more productive. Not only will they be more likely to work hard when they’re on the clock, but factors such as feeling appreciated, having a good work-life balance, and being given more control over their working experience can help to prevent your staff from feeling burnt out and can even lead to fewer sick days being taken.

What are the most common types of employee benefits?

Now that you know what they are and why you need to be offering them to your staff, you might be looking for some examples of employee benefits that you could put in place. There are a lot of different types of staff perks you can provide for your workers, both while they’re on the job and outside of the workplace. So, let’s take a look at some of the most common options, what the advantages of them are, and how they could work for your business.

Employee benefits you can offer at work

There are lots of different types of benefits you can offer to your staff while they’re actually in the workplace or on the job elsewhere. Here are just some of the most effective ways you can make their working lives much easier and more enjoyable.

Flexible working hours

For many industries, it isn’t completely necessary for people to be at their desks from 9am until 5pm every day. And, if this is the case for your line of work, offering flexible working hours to your staff is likely to be seen as a huge plus. It will give them more control over their own schedules and allow them to find a much healthier work-life balance. It can also benefit your company, as it’s likely you’ll find people need to take less time off to attend appointments and the like.

One of the simplest ways you can implement flexible working hours is to let your staff choose what time of the day they begin their shifts, as long as they still work an agreed number of hours each day.

Remote working

In a similar vein, if your company can function just fine without always having everyone in the same location, you could consider introducing a remote working policy. During the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lockdowns, a lot of companies discovered that they could in fact allow some or even all of their employees to work from home without it having a hugely negative impact on their productivity. And, according to the Office for National Statistics, 84% of workers who had to work from home during that time have said they plan to enjoy a mix of working at home and in their place of work in the future.

So, if you don’t offer remote working as an option, it’s likely you could miss out on a lot of great talent, as people are becoming increasingly focused on having more control over how and where they work.

Paths for career and skills development

One of the biggest reasons people leave their jobs is that they feel like they’re stagnating and that there’s no room for career development. So, it’s always worth ensuring that your staff are aware of their options when it comes to promotions, training, and moving forward in their careers.

It’s also important that you ask your workers for their input when it comes to what they would like to learn and where they feel there’s currently a gap in their skills. Again, this will help them to feel more in control of their career trajectories, boosting their work satisfaction. Plus, it’ll be a win for your company as your staff will constantly be picking up new skills, strategies, and tricks they can use in their work.

Free lunches

Everybody loves free food, so why not remind your workers how much you appreciate them by regularly providing their lunches free of charge? Just make sure you put the dates in everyone’s calendars ahead of time so the people who want to join in are around and don’t bring a packed lunch.

It’s also important that you check in with all of your workers to see if there are any dietary requirements or allergies you need to be aware of. This will further show everyone that you care a lot about their needs and preferences.

Workspace budgets

While you will have provided all of your staff with a basic workplace setup — most likely made up of desk, laptop or computer, and a desk chair — there may be some upgrades people would like to make. So, why not provide everyone with a budget they can dip into whenever they need something to make their jobs easier or more comfortable?

This is also likely to come in handy if you allow people to work from home, as they might not yet have a home office they can work from. You could allow them to use the budget you’ve set aside to create a nice space they can happily take calls and write emails from in their own houses.

Employee health benefits

A healthy workforce is going to be a much happier workforce, so it’s worth putting some benefits in place that will directly have a positive impact on your staff’s physical wellbeing. Here are just some of the most common options you might wish to offer.

Health insurance

According to NHS data, there are currently around 6.36 million people on treatment waitlists. And, if any of your employees ever join those numbers, it’s likely to cause them a lot of stress and potentially pain. But, you could put their minds at ease and ensure they can have any health issues investigated and treated quickly by providing them with health insurance to cover private healthcare costs.

It’s also likely to improve the overall wellbeing of your workforce, as people won’t be as hesitant to book check-ups when they have any concerns. This could then lead to people spending a lot less time off work, benefiting your company in the process.

Mental health support

It’s not just their physical health you can help your employees with — you could provide them with support for their mental health, too. For instance, you could offer them subsidised or free therapy, mental health days, mindfulness workshops, and more.

In addition to this, it’s also important that you work on creating a culture where people feel comfortable talking about their mental health and being honest when they’re struggling. If you don’t do this in tandem, it’s likely you’ll find people don’t take full advantage of the benefits available to them, as they may feel embarrassed or worry that you’ll think they aren’t up to their jobs.

Fitness schemes

Many employers also choose to provide their staff with gym memberships, cycle to work schemes, or budgets they can then put towards the likes of fitness classes or equipment. Again, not only will this help to keep your workers happy, but giving them the means to stay healthy can also reduce the need for sick days, which is sure to be good for business.

You can choose to offer all of your employees the same fitness perks, or allow them to tailor their exercise regimes to their abilities and interests. You may even wish to plan regular fitness days or events, such as company hikes or workplace yoga classes that take place during work time, just in case people struggle to find the time to exercise when they’re at home.

Financial benefits

Your employees are likely to appreciate any financial support you can provide them with. So, as well as competitive salaries and regular pay rises, you may wish to give them additional financial benefits that will show them how much you appreciate them. Here are a couple of employee benefits ideas they’re sure to love.

Retailer discounts

You could help your employees to ensure their money goes as far as possible by providing them with the means to access special discounts from their favourite retailers. There are platforms designed to facilitate this, so you don’t have to do any of the legwork yourself. Although, it is worth asking your staff for their input on what kinds of discounts they would like to see, so you can ensure you’re providing them with deals they will actually use.

Staff discounts

If you sell products or services that your employees may be interested in paying for, you could also offer staff discounts that make these a lot more affordable. Alternatively, you could even offer your workers limited access to what you sell for free — for instance, by setting a budget or allowing them to pick out a certain number of items at no cost on a regular basis.

Your employees work hard to deliver what you sell to your customers, so they’re sure to feel valued if they can take advantage of your wares without breaking the bank, too.

Trends in employee benefits

It’s vital that you keep your finger on the pulse when it comes to your employee benefits — it’s not enough to simply put some perks in place and then leave them be. This is because your competitors could be introducing new rewards all of the time and, if you don’t keep up, you could begin to fall behind.

So, it’s important you always keep an eye on the current trends and where employee benefits seem to be heading. Don’t just do what everyone else is, though. You need to ensure any perks and strategies you put in place are tailored specifically to your workers so they truly get the most out of what you’re offering.

But, to provide you with some guidance, here are the biggest employee benefit trends we’re seeing at the moment.

Allowing employee feedback to drive benefit strategies

In order to give your workers exactly what they want, you truly need to understand their needs, preferences, and interests. And, there’s no better way to get to know them than by asking them for feedback directly.

We would recommend checking in with your staff about their benefits on a regular basis — for instance, perhaps by sending them a survey every quarter — so you can tailor your offerings to their current requirements as their priorities or lifestyles might change. They may also see something another company is doing that they would love to benefit from, and you’ll want to give them the chance to tell you about that without too much of a delay, or they may be tempted to leave and join the business in question.

It’s becoming increasingly common for companies to build their benefits schemes purely around their workers’ feedback, and it’s a great way to ensure you’re delivering what you need to be. Just ensure you also help them to understand their options and how flexible your plans can be, so they’re able to provide you with all of the information you need to make the most fruitful decisions possible.

Investing in the health of remote employees

Due to many of us now working from home, some people have become a lot more sedentary over the last couple of years. Without the usual commute, in-person meetings, and lunchtime trips to the local cafe, for instance, many of us now have no real need to get up and about during the work week. But, if this is something that’s true among your workforce, it’s not going to be the best for their physical — or mental — health. As a result, it’s a good idea to invest in the wellbeing of your remote workers by providing them with perks that will keep them active.

For example, you could give them free gym memberships, budgets to spend on exercise classes or equipment, or even invite them to fitness events you’ve decided to host at your workplace. This will keep your workers active and healthy, as well as help them to feel more connected to the other people who work for you.

Flexibility that fosters a strong work-life balance

Overall, a lot of workers’ priorities have changed over the last few years and most of us are now thinking more about how we can spend extra time with our nearest and dearest. Flexible working policies can really help with this, as they typically give employees more control over their own schedules. So, whether they need to be at a doctor’s appointment, their child’s sports day, or they just want to make plans with their friends at a convenient time, they can work around their priorities.

There are a number of different ways you can offer flexible working schedules. For instance, if you know you can trust your workers to get everything done, you could give them complete control over their working hours, without any real guidelines. Or, you may wish to allow your staff to begin work at any time of the day, as long as they complete a certain number of hours.

You’ll also need to think about whether you’re going to monitor your workers’ activity — for instance, if you would like to be able to double-check that they’re working the correct hours, there is software you can install on all of your employees’ work computers or laptops to keep track of what they’re up to and how long they spend on the clock. But, many business owners also forego this and simply trust that their staff are working enough hours and focusing on the right tasks.

What do you need to know about tax on employee benefits?

You may already be aware that, if you provide your staff with the likes of company cars or accommodation, they will typically need to pay tax on this. So, you might be wondering if similar rules apply to the types of employee benefits we’ve discussed in this guide.

Generally, if you provide your workers with employee benefits like gym memberships, free lunches, subsidised therapy, and training, there won’t be any tax implications for them. To double-check what kinds of benefits and expenses your staff will pay taxes on, make sure you read through the full list on the government website.

There, you can also find more general information about tax on company benefits, which you and your workers may find useful.

What is the cost of employee benefits to employers?

Firstly, employee benefits should always be seen as an investment, rather than an outright cost. Generally, by taking steps to keep your staff happy, healthy, and satisfied in their jobs, you’ll create a more productive workforce full of people who will be willing to help you succeed in business.

Plus, the beauty of devising your own employee benefits strategy is that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. You can start very small to begin with if you don’t have much of a budget to work with, and you can expand this area of your business as you grow.

Of course, there are factors that will have an impact on the costs, such as how many employees are currently working for you, how often you would like to treat them, and how you wish to do that. But, ultimately, you’ll have complete control over how much you wish to spend, and there are options out there for every budget.

How to create an employee benefit strategy

Running a business takes a great deal of work. So, while you might have some great ideas about how you would like to give back to your employees, it’s completely understandable if you haven’t yet been able to find the time to put a strategy in place. That’s where advo comes in! We’re here to handle your employee benefits for you, so you can focus on the tasks that only you can do.

Not only can we help you choose the benefits you should be offering and put those in place for you, but you’ll also get access to advo-one. This is our all-in-one platform that will allow your employees to keep track of what’s available and tailor their own workplace experiences. And, if you need additional support in other areas, we also offer HR and payroll help through advo-one.

If you have any remaining questions about showing your workers how much you appreciate them through effective staff perks, make sure you check out our range of employee benefits and what you need to know about them. Our team of experts know exactly what needs to be done to keep your staff happy, healthy, and loyal to your business, and we would love to help you out.

If you would like to learn more or are interested in our services already, get in touch with us today. We’ll be waiting for your call and are looking forward to helping you take your employee engagement to the next level!