UK SMEs set to expand employee benefits offering: MetLife


More than half of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) will introduce or expand the benefits they offer staff in a bid to improve recruitment and retention, according to research by MetLife UK. 

Its UK-wide study of firms employing between 50 and 300 staff – comprising around 34,000 businesses employing 3.3 million people – found that 53 percent of them will increase the benefits they offer staff over the next two years. 

Around 7 percent will introduce benefits for the first time, while 46 percent will expand existing benefits. Around 14 percent of firms plan to expand the benefits offered to staff “substantially”.

The majority of SME owners and managers (69 percent) believe they have a duty to provide benefits beyond salaries and pensions, the MetLife research found.  

SMEs say they struggle to attract and retain staff amid competition from bigger firms, with nearly half (49 percent) identifying recruitment and retention as major issues. More than a quarter ( 27 percent) of them admit their benefits package is not as strong as bigger firms, with a slightly smaller number (25 percent) saying they struggle to meet employees salary expectations. 

SMEs increasingly looking to employee benefit consultants for help with recruitment and retention, according to the research. Around 46 percent of firms say they will look for support with strategies to attract talent over the next 12 months, and 41 percent want help on retention strategies. That compares with 36 percent and 34 percent, respectively, last year. 

Adrian Matthews, employee benefits director at MetLife UK. advised SMEs worrying about competition over salaries not to be deterred.  “Salary can be a blunt and expensive instrument and we know from our own employee benefit trends study in 2017 that in fact 55 percent  of employees highly value the benefits on offer and that 34 percent would be persuaded to stay in their job if their benefits were enhanced,” he said. “That is a positive for SMEs which feel they can’t compete on salary.” 

Matthews said a well-designed benefits package is often less expensive than firms believe. The cost to companies of group life and group income protection can be as low as 0.5 percent of salary for income protection and 0.2 percent of salary for life cover, he added.

MetLife, Employee benefits, SMEs

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