Research: Younger employees more likely to use workplace benefits

In our 2017 employee benefits survey, we asked 2,002 UK adults to tell us how valuable they would find certain services if they were provided by their employer as part of a benefits package. The results revealed two clear winners, with pensions (95%) and flexible working (91%) valued the most highly. Third place went to health insurance (89%) and fourth, jointly to legal advice and life insurance (87%). It appears then that employees look to employers to help them protect their health and financial interests, as well as achieve a work-life balance through flexible working hours.

Our follow-up survey conducted in June this year, aimed to find out what benefits are actually being used by employees. Research company, Opinium, conducted an online survey of 1,234 employed adults in the UK, who were shown a list of sixteen benefits and asked which if any were available to them and which of them they had used.

So, what’s on offer?

The results of the survey revealed that the most commonly offered benefits from the list were; time off to deal with personal matters (57%), flexible working hours (54%), cycle to work scheme (36%), counselling services (35%), childcare vouchers (33%), discount vouchers (33%), confidential advice lines (30%) and financial advice and health screening (24%).

The least commonly offered benefits were; legal documents, such as wills (15%), company cars (18%), health cash plans and legal advice (20%) medical advice/GP appointments and gym membership (22%) and free fruit in the workplace (23%).

However, 13% of responders claimed not to know whether some of the benefits on the list were offered by their employer or not, so the overall availability of each benefit could be higher.

And what’s being used?

The findings relating to the actual usage of benefits revealed a surprising low level of usage overall and gaps between some of the most widely available benefits and rates of usage. For example, although cycle to work schemes were the third most widely offered benefit (36%), only 6% of employees had used them. Similarly, childcare vouchers were used by only 5% of responders, despite 33% saying they were offered as a benefit.

The top five most widely used benefits from the list were: flexible working hours (22%), time off work to deal with a personal issue (16%), free fruit in the workplace (10%), discount vouchers (9 %) and health screening and gym membership (7%).

The least widely used benefits were; legal documents, such as wills (3%), financial advice, legal advice and childcare vouchers (5%) and cycle to work schemes, medical advice/GP appointments, counselling services, company car, health cash plan, confidential advice line (6%).

The popularity of flexible working tallies with our previous survey where 91% of employees said they value this kind of benefit. However, the low usage of counselling services (6%) and legal advice (5%), shows gap between what’s valued and what’s actually used. In our last survey, counselling services were valued by 70% of respondents and legal advice by 87%. This, of course, may simply be that employees rarely encounter the need for these services, but value the fact that they are available to them should the need arise.

Demographic differences

When we looked at the difference usage levels between genders, it appears that, perhaps unsurprisingly, more women (22%) than men (16%) are taking advantage of flexible working hours. However, usage of the other benefits listed were pretty equal between genders.

A difference in usage across age groups was more pronounced with, on average, 12% of employees in their 20s using one or more of the benefits listed, compared to just 4% of employees in their 50s. The average usage rates for other age groups were; 30s (9%), 40s (6%) and 60s (3%). The higher usage levels amongst younger employees could be that, as they are likely to earn less than their older colleagues, they get more financial value from the benefits on offer, so use them more.

When looking at these findings in conjunction with our previous research, it appears that while the actual usage of many benefits is occasional, employees genuinely value the availability of them to call on in times of need. I believe, therefore, that employers should look to make a wide range of benefits available, even if on a discounted basis, whilst accepting that usage levels overall are likely to be quite low. Just the existence of benefits gives employees peace of mind and helps to engender their trust and loyalty to their employer.

And, whilst it is encouraging to see younger employees being actively engaged with their benefits, our research suggests that perhaps employers should be doing more to make their benefits more relevant and attractive to their older employees.

Read the complete findings here.

To learn more about Epoq’s legal wellbeing service, email us or call on 020 8731 2424.