Small firms guilty of paying ‘lip service’ to staff benefits

Most offer 'average' perks despite promises

Small businesses in the UK are paying “lip service” to employee benefits, with many firms not paying enough attention to the welfare of their staff, according to a new report.

The research, conducted by internet provider Screen Pages, found that although 73 per cent of firms questioned recognised that staff benefits were essential to their competitiveness, most companies didn’t offer effective perks or incentives.

Over half of those questioned admitted that they did not do enough to provide pensions, private health insurance and other benefits in employment packages.

Screen Pages said that businesses are often “confused and apathetic” about benefits, and pointed to recent figures from the Association of British Insurers which revealed that 82 per cent of stakeholder pension schemes set up by employers currently have no members.

The Screen Pages study found that flexible working was also overlooked by many small firms, with only 11 per cent allowing staff to work variable hours to aid their ‘work-life’ balance.

Although 30 per cent claimed that they will introduce flexible working in the future, the survey will make disappointing reading for the government, which introduced the policy in April to allow parents of young or disabled children the right to change their hours or even work from home.

However, the survey revealed that many employers blamed the government for creating the current pensions crisis and putting an extra strain on company schemes.

A quarter of respondents also said that benefit providers are not offering employers good value for money.

Roger Willocks, managing director of Screen Pages, said that the research exposed critical weaknesses in employee benefit programmes.

“Employers are failing on two fronts – they are struggling to communicate the value of the benefits they currently provide and they are making little effort to expand the portfolio of benefits on offer.

“By offering no more than average benefits programmes small firms will be able to attract no better than average staff.

“This has serious implications for the competitiveness of a sector regarded as the engine of the economy,” he said.

As reported by Startups.co.uk, the importance of benefits ranging from pension schemes to gym membership has increased as firms on tight margins try to attract staff who are becoming more concerned about their work-life balance.

Securing sought-after workers has also become a challenge for companies because of the chronic lack of skills in the UK workforce, with an estimated eight million employees not able to do their jobs properly.

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