With COVID-19 bringing on dramatic changes to the way we work, staff wellbeing is more important than ever. Offering a wide range of employee benefits ensures your staff are looked after and cared for.
To gain an insight into the current business climate and how they’ve impacted employee benefits, we interviewed Vic Johnston, Company Director at Enjoy Benefits. Working with Enjoy Benefits in several roles for over 10 years, Vic has seen the company change from being a single benefit provider of childcare vouchers, to a provider of up to 30+ benefit options for a wide range of different companies and their employees.
Q: Are you finding in response to the pandemic that more employers are starting to recognise the importance of staff wellbeing and support?
I think companies are increasingly recognising that rewarding their employees or looking after their employees is now as important as salaries. Salaries are more often being seen as just part of a bigger package that employees look out for. People are looking to be part of a business family, rather than just working in a sterile environment and being paid a wage. I think employees want the feeling of working with friends, having a nice environment.
In the old days, it would be a salary plus a car, you’re thinking ‘what car do we get?’. But now [staff benefits, the environment etc] is definitely part of the bigger picture. ‘Do I get private medical insurance?’ ‘Do I get a cashback package?’ ‘What are the pension contributions?’ ‘What makes my day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month life better by working for employer A, versus employer B?’ If they’re offering the same salary, it doesn’t mean to say that they are offering the same experience for an employee.
Q: Do most big employers in the UK have an employee benefits package?
It’s a little sporadic, if you’re a big employer, you follow fashion and to some extent there is a trend in employee benefits that has grown over the years. So increasingly large employers are providing more employee benefits. However, newer, more innovative companies that come along, tend to quite often gravitate towards recruiting a younger workforce. They’re more forward thinking, offering a wider range of employee benefit packages, and that brings the older, more traditional companies into stark contrast.
Q: What does your typical client look like?
Our typical companies are quite varied, we work in all kinds of job sectors. Manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, airline, retail, you name it. The companies we do best with are the companies who really are invested in their employees, who want to give their employees a good experience and a comfortable working environment. So whether they have thousands of employees or just a handful, we can work well with anyone who has that right kind of mindset. Our systems and our staff are well placed to help friendly, helpful companies, we really do have their employees best interests at heart and we focus on the commercial drivers, money per hour costs for employees.
Q: How do you operate with your clients?
We have a friendly team of staff of around 20. They’re very knowledgeable and really experienced. They’ve all been with us a long time. Our staff tend to get to know the companies we work with and find out what it is that is best for them; we keep and maintain a relationship with them. A lot of our companies stay with us for a very long time. We have plenty of companies that have been with us for more than a decade. So our way of working with companies is to get to know them, to be almost part of their team, help them with their HR issues, and understand what their employees want. If they’ve got a young workforce with nursery aged children or if they have a more elderly workforce, or maybe their workforce is spread out geographically all the time. All these things have different impacts on some of the ways we can help shape our solutions; the way we put benefits packages together for employers to offer to their employees.
Q: Do you feel like your employee benefits make a difference?
From an employee perspective, some of the best stories I’ve heard have been about employees who are parents with nursery aged children and they have had to pay something ridiculous in nursery fees. The fees can add up to more than some people’s wages. The UK has the second highest childcare costs across the world. Thirty five point seven percent of the typical salary goes into childcare costs. The fees can be something like £20,000 a year to put two children through nursery. So we’ve had parents contact us who have used our scheme to save tax across all of that nursery fee, and as a result they’ve been able to take their family away on holiday to somewhere like Florida based on the savings they’ve made. They’ve got five figure savings from nursery fees, so stories like that, where parents are so happy to have saved such a significant sum because of just one product that we offer is really fantastic. It makes all of our staff happy to know that we’re able to make one family’s life so much better.
Q: Why are nursery fees so expensive in the UK?
It does come down to subsidies. So while there are some token gestures, like a tax free childcare pass, that on the face of things, would save you 25 percent of your tax on your childcare costs, both parents have to qualify. Both parents have to be within the eligibility criteria, both parents have to log into their account within three months and there’s a great number of obstacles to overcome to make use of that. And while that does work for some people, it doesn’t work for a lot more people. And those who pay a lot for childcare, it doesn’t work for them because typically high earners are outside of the threshold. So if you’re outside of the threshold, that scheme is of no use to you at all. But high earners traditionally are going to spend more on nursery costs. And so our benefit is particularly useful for those kinds of parents.
And one extra thing I would say about the workplace nursery scheme is the nurseries benefit from it as well. They get traditionally an extra £100 a month for every child that we add. So it’s an extra win for the nursery.
Q: How has your company reacted to the pandemic, to make sure in particular mental health is being considered and cared for?
I’m glad you’ve asked me this one, because you actually made me realise we have created a new benefit [employee assistance programme] in response to this pandemic, which is to do with health and wellbeing. So we partnered with a company to create a package of videos and supporting materials that address mental health and various aspects of it, whether it’s the financial pressures of life, the mental pressures, sleep, or anxiety.
Q: How many weeks ago did you launch the employee assistance programme and how is it going so far?
So we launched that towards the end of 2020, and it has been very successful. We’ve seen a lot of companies take it up and as part of it we’ve arranged webinars so that the employees of those companies can get together and discuss with these health experts some of the issues that may or may not be covered by the material. Working from home and losing that social contact has been tough for many, so it’s really been great to set it up [the employee assistance programme] and see people get engaged with it.
Q: How do you see the future of work post pandemic? Will the benefits landscape change?
I think the benefits landscape will definitely change in response to Covid, we can expect more people to be able to work from home now where we’ve proved that is possible. I think it will result in smaller teams in the office that are more flexible. So I don’t think you’ll see the same people every day. I think most people who can work from home probably will. This pandemic is going to run for a while. It’s instituted a change that none of us could have foreseen. I could never see the day that all of our staff would be working from home. It just seemed impossible. But now we know that it’s possible and now we’ve got systems in place to reflect that.
As we recognise that more of our lives happen at home and we have home deliveries and appointments, you won’t need to use up holidays, because you’ve got a fridge being delivered and so you won’t have to use a day’s holiday to account for life’s little inflexibilities. So hopefully it will mean that we could all make better use of our holiday allowance, maybe we’ll see less people buying holiday days and more people taking us up on our technology schemes, as they set up a fully functional home office.