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5 min read

The top 10 employee benefits in the UK

Gym membership and mental health support 

Employee wellbeing has become a significant focus for HR teams across the country in recent years with physical and mental health being rightfully prioritised. 

Almost two in three workers (60%) would like discounted or gym membership included in their benefits package while 51% want mental health support. 

Businesses appear to be offering mental health benefits that staff value; 74% of workers say their employer supports their mental health exceptionally well (22%) or averagely well (52%). When employees are happy and healthy they are their most productive at work. 

However physical and mental health support, such as counselling, online therapy or helplines, are just two of the three pillars of employee wellbeing. The third pillar is financial wellbeing - which affects both physical and mental health. 

“HR professionals should consider going beyond mental and physical health support and offer solutions that get to the root of the problem”, advises Stacey Lowman, Head of Employee Wellbeing at Claro Wellbeing.

 

Health insurance 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, health insurance is a particularly popular employee perk with 55% putting it above others.

Given the current pressure on the NHS and the expense of private medical care for individuals, health insurance is bound to be popular. It’s also one of the most common company benefits with almost one in four (24%) of staff having access to it.

Employers like this benefit too as it offers staff swift treatment for illness or injury so it minimises the amount of time they need to take off. 

Teams can also speak to doctors outside of working hours. However it can be expensive to provide at between £250 and £1,000 a year per employee and may not be viable for small businesses.

 

Financial wellbeing and education 

One in two (50%) employees opted for some form of financial education and wellbeing benefits when asked. This could include one-to-one financial coaching, webinars or workshops, on-demand educational resources and digital tools.

Over a quarter (27%) of working adults feel happy and in control about their finances today, according to Claro Wellbeing research

The rest say they are concerned, unhappy, stressed or overwhelmed - and this is having a significant impact on our health, relationships and work performance. 

More than two in three (69%) of employees say their organisation should do more to support their personal finances, and almost three quarters (73%) would welcome guidance that helps them save money every month. 

But what does an effective financial wellbeing programme look like? We’ve explained how to put together a successful strategy to support employees here

 

Childcare support 

Some 50% of workers also picked childcare vouchers as their top choice of employee benefit. 

The UK is one of the most expensive places in the world for childcare, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. 

Childcare vouchers, which allow parents to pay for nurseries and childminders from their pre-tax salary, can cut the cost by hundreds of pounds a year. 

However the scheme closed to new applicants in October 2018 and only employers that signed up before the cut-off date can offer them. 

Considering this is a valuable benefit to offer working parents, could you introduce other types of childcare support? 

For example, could you provide a nursery or creche at work or contract a provider to offer childcare for your staff? If that's not doable, could you offer flexible working hours or let staff work from home to improve their work-life balance?

 

Reward vouchers

Who doesn’t like freebies? Offering reward vouchers and employee discounts to staff as a work perk may seem like a no-brainer especially when times are tight. And almost half (49%) or workers want them included in their benefits package.

However, you’ll need to ensure the rewards are wide-ranging and relevant to your staff - not everyone will be excited about free cocktails or a trip to a theme park. 

Reward vouchers can also fit into a wider, long-term financial wellbeing strategy which offers bespoke coaching to help every employee achieve their financial goals, topical webinars and educational resources to improve their financial skills and confidence. 

 

Cycle to work scheme

The Government introduced the cycle to work initiative in 1999 as a tax exemption initiative. 

Under the scheme, employers buy or hire cycling equipment, including bicycles, helmets and other accessories, from approved suppliers, and hire it to their employees via a salary sacrifice arrangement. 

The payments are taken before tax, meaning staff pay less in tax and National Insurance contributions whilst potentially getting fit and saving on transport costs overall.

Some 44% of employees said this is the benefit they most want from their company.

If you currently offer a cycle to work scheme and have done for a while, consider reviewing uptake as people's circumstances may have changed.

Post-lockdown, more people may have moved out of commuter towns and many are now working from home more frequently. As a result they may not have as much use for this kind of scheme, despite the benefits to their health and the environment. 

 

Eyecare vouchers

We all have eyes - but some need more care than others. Almost a third (31%) of workers said they want eye care vouchers - which cover glasses and eye tests -  over any other benefit.  

Nearly a third of people are wearing the glasses of friends and family to avoid spending money on their own, as the cost of living crisis continues.

With the average eye test costing about £25 and prescription glasses costing more, it could be a useful perk to offer employees who need it. 

 

Subsidised canteen

Cut-price meals may sound like a winning offering but don’t assume all employees will bite your hand off. 

Discounted food at the staff canteen is the most attractive work perk for almost one in three (30%) staff. But the take-up will depend on your organisation, location and company culture. 

Think about your employees’ lunchtime habits - how many use the canteen, how many bring in food from home and how many eat out of the office - and for what reason? 

Use this as an opportunity to find out more about your staff’s needs. For example, is taking an hour away from the work environment over lunch or having more choice on the high street more valuable to staff than reduced price meals at the canteen?

 

Office perks (beer tap, ping pong table etc)  

While ping pong tables, beer taps and golf simulators sound fun - less than a quarter of staff (24%) rate kooky office perks as the benefit they want most.

Hybrid working policies may mean staff are not in the office enough to take full advantage of sliding down a fireman’s pole down to their desk and not everyone has time during the day to play ping pong. 

While they may once have attracted young recruits intent on living their best start-up city life, in the long-term we have seen that staff want more meaningful benefits that connect with their values and enhance their wellbeing that will also engage and retain them. 

 

...and what about the least popular employee benefits?

Oh, we're so glad you asked.

We also gathered feedback on what employee benefits workers considered a ‘waste of time’.  

A beer tap ( 28%) was the top answer, followed by ping pong and foosball tables (26%). While these perks are fun, it shows that different employees value different benefits at work and when looking for a new job. 

There is no catch-all when it comes to creating the perfect employee benefits package so offering a diverse range is key - Stacey, our Head of Employee Wellbeing explains more on this here 

 

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