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31 Mar 2021

How employee benefits can support organisations’ strategic objectives

The pandemic has undoubtedly been a difficult time for employees and businesses alike, as they navigate the challenges created by Covid-19. There is, however, a silver lining surrounding the impact of Covid-19 – UK firms are rethinking their approach to employee health and wellbeing. 




A survey undertaken by Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing in October 2020 found that almost three in every four employers (72%) are now expecting to undertake a review of their employee benefits as a direct result of the pandemic. The same survey showed that individuals’ views on employee benefits provision have also changed, with 60% of those surveyed saying that benefits provision was now more important to them as a result of the pandemic.

Further, the pandemic has – it would seem – alerted organisations to the need for a different type of benefit. In an article for REBA, Paul Roberts, executive board member of the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA UK), suggested that the EAP, seen by some as a ‘hidden’ benefit, a ‘last resort’ or the ‘crisis line’, has become ‘a pillar of organisational resilience’.

The article concludes that “EAPA UK’s own analysis of return on investment (ROI) from more than 2,000 calculations suggested that for every £1.00 spent on an EAP in the UK, employers see an average ROI of £7.27 from reduced presenteeism, absenteeism and staff turnover”.

Interestingly, the article also notes how “the ‘best’ employers in the coming years will be those who can show how close attention to their wellbeing services has been integral to their recovery, creating a culture of employee commitment and motivation”.

Pressure on workplace benefits

Unprecedented has become a watchword during the past year. However, many HR leaders will have experienced major pressures on benefits budgets during past financial crises and recessions; and – more generally – where ROI of a programme is hard to measure. At times when companies look to financially tighten their belts, employee benefits programmes can often be hit hard.

But perhaps this time around is somewhat different. The attention being given to employee wellbeing and mental health is unprecedented, and is perhaps finally gaining the recognition it deserves as being integral to company culture, business performance and, therefore, recovery.

So how do we measure the success of benefits?

With this in mind, one of the key measures of the effectiveness of employee benefits programmes in these times may be the extent to which businesses recover. And this idea clearly picks up on the strategies that have long been adopted by HR leaders.

We’re already seeing that good businesses have retained their focus on – for example – the importance of diversity and gender. Financially, companies will continue to look at how their benefits programmes save time and money through: improved talent retention, the attractiveness of the company to the groups of talent they want to recruit, and staff productivity (which has clear positive correlations to wellbeing).

Is now the time to introduce new benefits?

Clearly benefits still have a place – perhaps even more so than pre-pandemic – but is it time for a change?

Writing for REBA, Debi O’Donovan believes, “the reward and benefits profession has never been in such a vital position to rethink and re-imagine the employee/employer relationship”. In her September 2020 article she outlines 12 key reward and benefits trends you need to know to thrive in 2021. One such trend is ‘women-friendly’ benefits.

With more women joining the workforce and gender-based targets still being key for many companies, benefits appealing to women not only increase the attractiveness of an organisation (particularly in traditionally male-dominated industries or roles) but also serve to improve retention levels amongst these same employees as they progress in their careers.

Spotlight on fertility and reproductive health

While not exclusively a ‘women’s benefit’ (one in six couples in the UK will have trouble conceiving and every LGBT+ person wishing to become a parent requires support), fertility and reproductive health support is one area in which progressive firms are leading the way. Examples include large professional services firms contributing directly towards employee IVF or egg freezing treatment, to social care firms which provide employees with access to telehealth solutions and corporate education.

One size rarely fits all, but employers are recognising the diversity and inclusion, recruitment, retention and wellbeing benefits that can be gained when their employees are given the opportunity to achieve a more accessible and affordable fertility care experience.

Across corporate America, fertility benefit programmes have become a must-have benefit. A survey by Willis Towers Watson identified that around two thirds of US employers with more than 100 employees offered fertility benefits in 2019. Similar research by LinkedIn in the UK showed that 66% of UK employers think that fertility support in the workplace should be considered a statutory right and 82% said their organisation expects to add to their fertility benefits programmes.

With more people starting their families later in life and a continued decline in global fertility rates, we will undoubtedly see a growing demand for fertility support in the workplace. The desire to build a family is often fundamental. However, many employees struggle and can spend years trying to achieve it. The impact on their wellbeing and productivity at work can be significant.

Is a fertility benefit right for my organisation and employees?

Fertility challenges and the taboo nature of fertility in the workplace are not new issues that HR teams are dealing with. But crucially the last year of Covid-19 restrictions has amplified an already extremely difficult time, as fertility treatments have been cancelled and plans put on hold. What this year has also done is to show the importance of workplace wellbeing and how services such as telehealth, online consultations, at-home fertility testing, drug deliveries direct to our door, education and support can be successfully delivered – decreasing time off for clinic visits and removing some of the stigma often associated with fertility care.

When looking at the question of whether a fertility benefit is right for an organisation, it’s important to consider the many strategic objectives it supports. Research shows that 90% of people experiencing fertility challenges would change jobs for fertility support and coverage, and 33% of UK millennials believe fertility benefits should be offered in the workplace. These figures start to show how fertility benefits can become a real competitive advantage for companies willing to lead the way. 

Building the business case

We have developed an easy-to-use, online ROI calculator for HR and benefits leaders. For an instant estimate of the ROI you could achieve by providing fertility and reproductive health support, simply enter the number of employees at your organisation and their average salary. You will receive an immediate ‘net return on investment’* figure as well as your projected maximum cost per employee.

Additional support for HR

Read more on fertility and reproductive health support as an employee benefit in our three white papers:

This article is provided by Fertifa.

* Net return on investment is defined as savings that your company could make by adopting our benefits programme. These savings are made through employee retention, increased productivity, engagement and a reduction in absenteeism.

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In partnership with Fertifa

Fertifa is the UK’s leading fertility and reproductive health benefits provider.

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