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02 Jun 2020
by Dawn Lewis

Research: how the land lies for global employee benefits

Coronavirus has had a dramatic affect on global benefits programmes. Broadly speaking, organisations have galvanised themselves to enhance health and wellbeing benefits to support the workforce through this pandemic. Find out why this has been to their advantage.




How the land lies

Increasingly businesses are operating on a global basis. REBA’s second snapshot survey into the impact of the coronavirus crisis on pay, bonuses and employee benefits revealed that, more than two-thirds of businesses had been affected by coronavirus globally – 48% had a global workforce, 5% had a global supply/distribution chain and 15% have both.

For these organisations, the main issues for them over the past few weeks centred around keeping up with different responses in different countries (with regard to lockdown rules, government support etc), how to communicate accurate and clear information, ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of employees, and how to continue business as usual.

One employer summed up the challenges as: “Making sure employees are not overwhelmed by concerns or issues about sick pay, taking care of their children while schools or kindergarten are closed and that they don't feel isolated when working from home. Wellbeing is suddenly much more in the focus than ever!”

Wellbeing benefits in focus

Wellbeing is certainly an area where many employers have focused their attention. REBA’s survey found that a quarter of employers had increased their spend on employee assistance programmes, while 13% were spending more on virtual GP services, 5% had increased pre-retirement pension support and a further 5% had increased their spend on group life cover.

Willis Towers Watson’s 2020 COVID-19 Benefits Survey delivered similar results, suggesting that most HQs are prioritising programme enhancements over benefit reductions.

Its findings revealed that 67% of HQs plan to enhance wellbeing programmes, while nearly half plan to enhance health care benefits. Of the benefits to be altered, the top three priorities were: enhancing mental health services (67%); communicating key benefits and wellbeing programmes that might be of use during this time (65%); and, in joint third place, supporting employees’ financial wellbeing/ensuring business continuity of benefits programmes (both at 26%).

Looking ahead, more than half of multinational employer respondents have already or are considering revising their health care strategy for 2021.

Before and after

Earlier this year Metlife released its annual benefit trends study featuring two surveys – one undertaken in the summer of 2019 and the other conducted in early April this year. The results revealed that the global working world has fundamentally changed and is still changing as a result of coronavirus. It notes that, for some organisations, a focus on attraction and retention has been replaced by a fight for sustainability and survival. While, at the same time, for those who are still able to work new priorities, concerns and motivations are emerging.

Yet despite these shifts, Metlife’s research highlighted one main constant: employers that understand their employees’ experience and needs – and take action to help their employees manage the challenges they face inside and outside of work – will have a more engaged, productive and successful workforce.

In fact, a key finding to come from this research was the positive impact employers can have if they take action to support employees during the COVID-19 crisis. Prior to the pandemic, just 56% of employees said they felt valued and appreciated when working, compared with 66% of employees who were working during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This demonstrates just how valuable offering benefits and support to employees can be.

Whatever the next few months hold, what is clear is that employee wellbeing and the associated benefits that surround this have never been more important.

The author is Dawn Lewis, content editor at REBA.