For many, workplace benefits are one of a long list of considerations when starting a new job. Alongside job requirements, salary and working hours, the so-called “perks of the job” are worth mulling over too.
They range from life insurance and dental schemes to health insurance, paid expenses and discounts on products across a variety of retailers.Some of the biggest tech companies, like Facebook and Google, offer their workers free meals, gym access and various subsidised services in their offices – including massages.
Parental leave is considered one of the most desirable workplace benefits, despite concerns about how affordable an option it is for working families. Shared parental leave – a system that lets two parents split 37 weeks of paid time off, as part of 50 weeks of leave – was designed to help new dads spend more time at home.
Despite its flexibility, the state-run system has been criticised for punishing fathers for taking time off, and requiring partners to share their leave. According to the TUC, just 9,200 new parents took up shared leave in 2018 when 900,000 were eligible.
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Some employers, like the drink-maker Diageo, have stepped in to offer a better option for their staff. In April, the firm said its 4,500 UK staff would be entitled to 52 weeks of parental leave with the first 26 weeks being fully paid. Employees retain all of their benefits and bonuses regardless of gender, sexual orientation or whether they become parents biologically, via surrogacy or adoption.
According to Glassdoor, these are the best UK employers for perks Arm: The software company’s “Flexpot” gives employees an allowance to spend on hobbies.Improbable: The tech firm’s “Life Concierge” helps new staff relocate.Facebook: The social media firm offers staff three free meals a day, alongside more generous perks like a fund for wellness treatments.Diageo: The drinks maker contributes 18 per cent of salaries to employees’ pensions.Sky: The broadcaster offers paid leave for employees when they move house.Travelzoo: The travel firm gives staff a £1,000 bonus each year that can be spent on its own deals.02: The mobile network offers new dads 14 weeks’ paid paternity leave.
But while some employees have the pick of the bunch, others find themselves entitled to nothing, or are unaware of what is available to them.
According to the employee benefit firm Benni, 38 per cent of 2,000 employees polled in the UK say they receive no workplace perks at all.Worst off are those in the North East and South West.
Around 55 per cent of the former say they do not have any, while 49 per cent of the latter are in the same situation – considerably lower than the national average.
Despite many working without additional benefits from their place of work, 22 per cent still say they would be extremely angry and tempted to move from their job, if they found out their peers at other companies had access to better options.
London ranked as the best area for workplace benefits. Only 28 per cent of workers in the capital city say they have nothing to choose from.
Case study: Lerisse Johnstone, 33Senior vendor partner at recruitment firm Hays, Leicester
“In previous jobs, I was a temporary member of staff so I didn’t have any entitlements to workplace benefits. Each year at Hays, a platform opens to select new benefits for the year.“Salary Finance (a benefits provider) offers loans – you can type in a number, whether you want to borrow it over a year or two years, and see what you’d expect to pay back, directly out of your wages. So it’s really easy to establish what is going to be coming out of your wages before you even apply for it.“I had been trying to save for a holiday for two or three years but every time I saved, the washing machine would break or the car would need fixing. Through the loan, I was able to clear quite a bit of historic debt and then I was also able to take my daughters on their first holiday.”
A considerable number of employers only view benefits as an “optional extra” for their staff. However, Benni’s research suggests that up to a quarter of employees would be willing to contribute financially to their key health and protection benefits including critical illness insurance, life insurance and dental insurance –13 per cent would also contribute towards a perk like retail discounts.
Kyle Addy, voluntary benefits director at Benni, said: “While employer-funded benefits can be a strong pull in attracting talent, there are other perks that give employers the edge over the competition. Employees like to understand the choices available and then select the options that are right for them – even if this means paying themselves.
“In the current recruitment market, the war for talent is fierce – employers need to be innovative in their approach to attract and retain the best employees, no matter which region or sector they are in.”