The 5 key trends shaping the future of employee benefits
Employees are working to a greater age, while their attitudes, outlooks and expectations are changing. Employers are having to adapt and respond, or they risk failing to attract and retain top talent – all the while ensuring new benefits initiatives align with demanding corporate objectives and budgets.
Against this ever-evolving backdrop, the importance of modernising benefits programmes cannot be underestimated.
Willis Towers Watson is committed to working with futurists, technology disruptors, insurers and health tech innovators alike to ensure clients are aware of emerging developments.
Here we look at the top 5 motivators that will transform employee benefits next year and beyond.
1. An ageing workforce
According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of people aged over 70 who are still working has doubled over the past decade. In the first quarter of the year, the number hit a peak of 497,946 – an increase of 135 per cent since 2009.
As the proportion of employees staying in work beyond state pension age increases, businesses will undoubtedly benefit from the invaluable skills and experience this older workforce contributes. But they must also rise to the challenge of this new demographic as the health and wellbeing requirements of older employees may differ notably from those of their younger colleagues.
Business leaders and HR practitioners must therefore take steps to maximise the productivity and potential of older workers – and avoid business-debilitating allegations of age discrimination. By ensuring these age-sensitive needs are adequately met, organisations can harness the invaluable contribution of their mature talent pool.
Providers who respond by innovating to bring new products to market that will engage and make a real difference to older workers’ lives will most certainly flourish.
Greater investments are likely to be made in proactive health and wellbeing education and intervention. A more flexible approach to work-life balance will also top the agenda for companies employing older workers along with the needs of the ‘squeezed middle’ that is facing burgeoning child and elder care responsibilities.
With many now looking to retire on defined contribution (DC) pension schemes, the demand for meaningful initiatives that offer financial advice and guidance is also set to dominate employee schemes.
2. Chronic disease management
Older workers are at a higher risk of suffering from cancer and chronic conditions, such diabetes or high blood pressure.
In response to this, the Willis Towers Watson Benefits Trends Survey revealed that chronic disease management was among the top three health and wellbeing benefit areas that employers earmarked for improvement.
Some treatments and support to help stabilise long-term conditions are available to employees from benefits such cash plans, medical insurance and employee assistance programmes (EAPs).
However, there are still clear gaps in available cover. Historically, treatments for acute conditions have dominated PMI schemes but insurers are finding ways to support those with longer-term illnesses.
Further consideration should be given over the coming years to healthcare schemes and products that help tackle such conditions, that prioritise proactive rather than reactive care, and that offer medical, physical, psychological and emotional support to employees affected.
3. Workplace mental health
Efforts to raise awareness of workplace mental health have catapulted this issue up the corporate agenda in recent times.
Given the scale and far-reaching impact of mental ill-health on productivity, absenteeism, presenteeism and turnover, this should come as no surprise. The latest Willis Towers Watson’s Global Benefits Attitudes Survey (GBAS) revealed that almost one in three (29%) UK employees had suffered with severe stress, anxiety or depression in the previous two years.
Forty-six per cent of workers who were highly-stressed said that they would be prepared to leave their employer – more than double the figure amongst those with low levels of stress (19 per cent). Moreover, 54 per cent of highly stressed respondents aged over 50 reported that they would retire early if they could.
Although the Benefits Trends Survey revealed that half of all employers were taking steps to reduce work-related stress, this still leaves a significant number that were failing to address the issue. We anticipate the number of businesses introducing mental wellbeing initiatives to rise in our 2019 survey findings.