Sunday 16 June 2013

Does your employer offer you a good benefits package?

I've had a bit of an awakening this week as I read a recent report commissioned by income protection provider Unum called 'Keeping Pace? Financial insecurity in the modern workforce'. I've said before that I enjoy my work and I know I'm lucky to be with a public sector employer as this means I have good stability in my job but what I realised I have taken for granted are all the great employer benefits offered to me.

When Mumsnet confirmed they would like me to write a post about my employer provided benefits I spoke to a few blogger friends, mentioning I was excited to write this post. I was startled when one friend, who is employed full-time, commented that she could not apply for this as she did not get any benefits in her job. Then another mentioned that being self-employed she had very limited benefits offered to her. Of course, not everyone is as lucky as me in their employment, I forgot this.

These comments from just a couple of my friends certainly match the findings in the Unum report that there is a significant gap between what a modern day workforce requires and what is provided by many companies. The demographics of workers has changed in the last thirty years and now we have more female, part-time, non-British and disabled employees working in the UK. The disparity of the benefits offered and what the modern employee requires can be vast. The report found that today fewer employers offer generous pension schemes and occupational sick pay. Again I can count myself fortunate as I benefit from both of these, I have a final salary pension scheme and a generous provision for sickness.

For the last nine years I have worked within Human Resources (HR) at a large, modern University and this means that I have a full suite of benefits available to me, so many that if I was to just try to reel them off the top of my head to you now I would forget at least half as there are so many. Now I don't know if some of my positive attitude comes from the fact that I work in HR and therefore I know about the benefits and also I am willing to recognise all relevant offers as benefits. I suppose it might be easy for staff in other areas to dismiss benefits such as flexitime in regards to working hours, wellbeing events and free book loans as they are non-financial.

Working in HR I have had input into ensuring that staff know about the benefits on offer to them and we have developed a one hour welcome meeting with HR for all new staff within their first week of employment. At this they are introduced to our intranet site and shown where all the benefits are detailed, this ensures they have that knowledge of what they can access from a very early stage in their career. At about the three month point all staff attend a central induction event and one of the sessions is around the employment experience. This is an interactive session where staff talk about the benefits they are aware of and share ideas between the fifty attendees.  The facilitators then draw their attention to benefits they might not be aware of, both those with a financial implication such as discounted bus fares, meals and childcare vouchers and those without, like the on site multi-faith centre and flexible working arrangements.

The University realise that they need to do more to help long-term staff recognise the full suite of benefits available to them and currently there are talks about how this awareness can be raised.

Personally I believe that my current benefits are very generous, I receive good holiday provision, additional pay on University closure days, final salary pension scheme, childcare vouchers, Christmas bonus vouchers, flexi-time, flexible working arrangements, discounted bus travel, discounted catering provision, free book loans, cycle to work scheme, discounted gym membership, discounted access to arts and cultural events, wellbeing events, counselling service, access to free legal helplines, reduced-cost on-site nursery, opt-in health care and generous occupational sick and maternity pay. As well as fabulous access to central support departments such as occupational health, disability services, health and safety and the equality office.

It is not just in writing that these benefits looks good, in the nine years I have been with my employer I have been on maternity leave, taken parental leave, worked from home and used the flexible working arrangements to change my working pattern on at least three different occasions.  I have also had a six week period off sick and gone back to work on a staged basis.  They paid for me to Undertake my Ma in Human Resources and gave me time to undertake this. The only thing that they do not seem to offer that Unum have recommended employers should consider is income protection, this would mean if I could not attend work due to critical illness or such I would continue to be paid and could have my mind at ease about continuing with my caring responsibilities.

To be honest I have never heard of an employer offering this, none of mine have that I'm aware of and at one point I worked for Pepsi.  My husband tells me that his current employer offers this income protection insurance though so it is obviously becoming more common. You don't have to tell me that I am lucky to be employed by my University, I fully realise this.

Do you know what your employer is offering you? Unum would like to encourage all Mumsnetters in employment to #askHR about what employer provided benefits they are currently entitled to, and to report back on whether their current employer provided benefits package is fit for purpose. 

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