Robert Young's article was published by Pay & Benefits in March 2016.
Family friendly benefits
Employers face many challenges and one is recruiting and retaining good quality staff to enable their business to thrive. Work-Life balance is perhaps an overused phrase but what can employers do to try and improve this and why should they?
The pressures of being a working parent are significant, so a key benefit for them is flexible working. There are many ways this can be achieved. Options include flexible start and finish times around core hours. The ability to work from home and time off to attend appointments during the day (provided that the time is made up).
A major event for any parent is the birth or adoption of a child. Children grow up incredibly quickly these days so spending time together particularly over the first few weeks are very important. Offering enhanced terms for maternity, paternity and adoption leave and the relatively new ability to share parental leave are all viewed as significant family friendly benefits by employees.
Childcare vouchers are a simple family friendly benefit to provided, generally by salary sacrifice. The cost of providing these will be mitigated by the savings in employer National Insurance contributions on the sacrificed salary. It should be noted that a new government scheme is being introduced in 2017 and there are winner and losers as a result of the changes so these need to be communicated.
One benefit that is popular and of benefit to all employees is the offer of retail and leisure discount vouchers or pre-paid cashback cards as they put money back into their pockets. They can help make treats such as meals out, trips to the cinema or theme parks more affordable and enable families to have some fun together. Many of these schemes give discounts at the high street chains we all use so that is money back on everyday spending. Employees that have a happy home life, come to work happy. This helps motivation and productivity while costing little to arrange.
On the issue of quality family time, the ability to buy additional holiday is another benefit many find attractive.
The ability to extend healthcare benefits such as private medical insurance and health cash plans is also attractive, even if the employer recovers the cost for the family members as this would be significantly cheaper than if employees sourced this themselves.
The overall message is that flexibility is key and so is good clear communication of all the benefits available. We are all time poor to some extent (working parents particularly so). Fortunately modern technology makes this achievable. Management must also buy into the benefits on offer and allow the flexible working to be achieved in practice. The provision of some of these benefits has a cost attached but employers should not underestimate the value that a happy, strongly motivated workforce has in terms of productivity, staff retention and staff recruitment.