What impact has Covid-19 had on your employee benefits?

In a matter of only a few weeks the Covid-19 pandemic has caused widespread change to how and where many of us work, where we can go and what we’re able to do.

Whilst one of the most apparent differences may be more of your employees working from home (if they’re able to), we wanted to look at something less obvious: the effect that this sudden pandemic may be having on employee benefits.

With that in mind we put together a short survey* the week before last, to find out companies’ views on their benefits provision, and how that may change as the pandemic’s repercussions become more widespread.

The answers threw up some interesting viewpoints and we wanted to share them with you.

How has Covid-19 affected your business this year?

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Of our respondents, 51% have so far furloughed employees under the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme - something which should allow them to pick up again swiftly when restrictions on movement and working conditions are loosened further over the next few months.

Others mentioned reducing pay and requiring employees to take unpaid leave for varying periods.

Have any of your employee benefits helped staff through this period?

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54% of respondents believe the benefits they provide to employees have helped them during this period.  Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP), Private Medical Insurance (PMI) and access to online GP services were singled out as being particularly useful, in line with what we’d expect during a period of personal and medical uncertainty.

Do you plan to make any changes to your company’s employee benefits as a result of Covid-19?

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The majority of our respondents (69%) aren’t planning to make any changes to their benefit provision due to Covid-19.  Whilst providing benefits comes at a cost to businesses, this shows a potential wish to stick to the status quo, but also that businesses are being cautious in making changes that may affect their staff negatively. 

Of the 25% who said they definitely or probably would make changes due to Covid-19, several mentioned increasing employee wellbeing initiatives, providing better insurance cover and allowing more working from home, so perhaps some elements of a silver lining here for employees.

Commenting on the results, Managing Director of Employee Benefits Alan Morahan said:

“Like any form of insurance, employee benefits are only fully appreciated when they are utilised, and the Covid-19 pandemic has made employees do just that. Employee assistance programmes, an often underused and sometimes unknown benefit, have come to the fore and some providers will have delivered an excellent service, others less so. Group life assurance will have provided funds to bereaved families, alleviating a little of the stress caused by the loss of a loved one and cash plans will help with extra treatments when lockdown is eased. Interestingly, private medical insurance, a widely valued benefit, has been less utilised during the pandemic, either because patients don’t want to go to hospital or private facilities are being used to help the national effort to fight the virus. This has resulted in some insurers looking at payment terms on premiums.

What this demonstrates is that a mix of benefits is important and once the pandemic has subsided HR and reward teams should review their offering to determine whether it meets the needs of their workforce. This might include surveying employees to find out what benefits they value or how current providers performed, if they used them.”

We’ll continue to monitor the latest issues in employee benefits as the Covid-19 situation carries on so that we can ensure you’re up to date with the most recent changes.

In the meantime, if there’s anything you’d like to discuss then please get in touch - we’d be happy to help. Our Coronavirus Resource Centre is also regularly updated with our latest insights and resources.

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*Source for all figures quoted: Punter Southall Aspire survey May 2020, 79 respondents

Posted by Steve Butler

Topics: Employee Benefits, Health & Protection

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