In the current economic climate, employee benefits are possibly one of the last things on many employers’ minds; unless they are thinking of ways to cut back on costs by reducing spending on benefits or removing schemes altogether. For example, the company that my colleague formerly worked for removed the employer’s contribution from the pension scheme following a consultation exercise. Basically the choice was that the pension contribution had to be removed, otherwise redundancies would be necessary.
These often necessary changes to employee benefits are nonetheless extremely damaging to employee morale, and to keep hearing negative news with nothing to counteract it will increase the negative effects of the recession, i.e. employee insecurity, depression and de-motivation. However the budgets for employee benefits will continue to be squeezed, making it hard for HR or Reward/Benefits departments to maintain morale and faith in the company when they’re taking away the very things they have used to increase it in the past.
This is a perfect time to review the benefits package on offer to employees. In the same way that different benefits will appeal to different employees due to their varying personal circumstances, benefit choices will change depending on the external environment and the ways in which employees need to be supported.
As I said a few weeks ago, when I recently visited my GP he told me that his workload had increase due to the recession as he was treating a lot of stress and depression related illnesses. When I have consulted in the past on employee benefits, an employee assistance programme has been one of the least popular choices, but at the moment I bet a lot of workers across the company could really benefit from this kind of service. Another option that could help out a lot of people at the moment might be providing some time with a financial advisor; so that people can discuss their options if they have concerns about mortgage, loans or credit card repayments. This would be a fairly low-cost option but shows that the employer is aware of the personal issues facing many people at this time.
Companies should also consider flexible working options as an alternative to financially-based benefits, for example offering flexitime would be a great boost to many people; and although this might be quite difficult to set up initially, does not have a long term cost. Giving employees the opportunity to purchase additional holidays means that people can choose to take more time off if they wish (and therefore does not impose another benefit that some people may not necessarily want) and if employees purchase the days, can actually save the company money in salary and National Insurance payments.
This is a time for HR and benefits professionals to be creative with their budgets and time, rather than simply taking everything away and sending out the message that there is nothing that can be done because of the recession. Some companies, like Solvo Global, offer employee wellness programs for other companies, it might be helpful.