In its latest benefits and allowances survey, XpertHR, the country’s leading online HR resource, reveals that more than half (59.4%) of UK organisations offer mental health support to their workforce. In addition, almost all survey respondents offer at least one employee benefit that aims to positively impact health and wellbeing, with employee assistance programmes and life assurance proving the most popular options.

Health and wellbeing are key themes that employers are now embedding into building a positive employee experience for all, and this emphasis is also evident in organisations’ approaches to employee benefits packages. The past year or so has cemented the necessity of looking after all aspects of employee health, from physical to mental, and social to financial. When asked about their strategic focus for the year ahead, 23% of UK organisations put employee wellbeing at the top of the agenda.

Access to certain benefits can vary depending on an employee’s role and seniority in the organisation. The most costly health benefits, such as private medical insurance (PMI), are often limited to more senior employees, but many organisations are increasing the availability of these benefits to other members of staff by including them in flexible and voluntary packages. Within flexible benefits schemes, PMI is offered by 45.1% of organisations and healthcare cash plans are offered by 40.8%. Within voluntary schemes, healthcare cash plans are made available by 53.3% of organisations, while PMI is offered by 38.3%.

Perhaps as a consequence of the pandemic, XpertHR’s research also found that some organisations are considering extending cover of certain benefits to employees’ partners and/or families where it had previously only been provided for the individual.

Health and wellbeing benefits offered by employers
% of employers
Counselling service/employee assistance programme
Life assurance/death in service benefit
Mental health support
Private medical insurance
Flu injections
Healthcare cash plan
Optical benefits (above statutory minimum)
Permanent health insurance or income protection
Health screening
Free or subsidised gym membership/exercise classes
Critical illness insurance
Dental insurance
Attendance allowance or bonus

Sarah Byrne, HR practice editor at XpertHR, comments:
“Over the past year the importance of looking after all aspects of employee health has really come to the fore. The challenges presented by the pandemic have prompted many organisations to take a fresh look at the benefits they offer and consider whether they are best meeting employees’ needs.

“Whilst benefits relating to health and wellbeing have long been on offer, employers are listening more closely to employees to discover which benefits are most useful to them. In the information they shared, organisations were clear that employee health and wellbeing is a clear strategic priority, and we expect this to remain the case going forward.”