The latest benefits and allowances survey from XpertHR® has found counselling or an employee assistance programme (EAP) remains the most common health-related benefit offered by more than 8 in 10 UK employers (84 per cent).

Since 2020, counselling or an EAP has been the most common health-related benefit offered by employers, however the findings also reflect the shift to a more holistic approach to wellbeing with employee benefits increasingly encompassing support for mental as well as physical health.

Recent ONS data found that the UK lost a record number of working days to sickness in 2022 with ‘mental health conditions’ being the fifth most common reason. These survey findings are a reflection of employers recognising the need to integrate a benefits package that positively impacts mental wellbeing.

Employers also recognise that making resources accessible, especially for hybrid workers, is another important step to creating a comprehensive benefits package. More than half (53 per cent) of organisations now provide digital wellbeing resources, so employees can access support whenever they need it. However, there is a disparity in the availability of these resources: 71 per cent of larger employers (organisations with 1,000 employees or more) offer digital wellbeing resources, whereas only 40 per cent of smaller organisations (those with between one and 249 employees) offer support in this way.

The survey also shows how employers are recognising the need to provide financial advice for their employees during this period of financial uncertainty. Almost a third (30 per cent) of organisations offer a financial wellbeing programme, designed not just to help reduce debt but also to help employees get the most from their money and achieve their financial goals.

Private medical insurance remains the third most common health and wellbeing benefit offered by employers (64 per cent), but healthcare cash plans (34 per cent) have increased in popularity since 2022. Healthcare cash plans pay a cash sum to cover the cost of specified day-to-day healthcare treatments and are often a low-cost alternative to private medical insurance, helping employees access healthcare as soon as they need it.

“Given the financial strains placed upon employees over the last 18 months, and how this is impacting upon their mental health, it’s unsurprising that employers are looking to dedicate significant mental health support to their employees,” says Sheila Attwood, XpertHR senior content manager, data and HR insights. “However, there is a shift from relying totally on EAPs to provide this mental support with the inclusion of finance specific benefits offering a solution that might address the root cause of many employees’ worries.

“Greater access to digital resources to support wellbeing highlights organisations’ continued commitment to flexible working arrangements, ensuring employees can access the support they need wherever they are,” she added. “It’s often a lack of adaptability that hinders successful benefits packages. But by ensuring that a range of resources are available to meet all needs, and providing access in an easier way, employers can ensure their workforce can get the most out of the benefits on offer, and employers in return can create a healthier, happier, and productive workforce.”

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