MetLife finds Australian businesses strengthen workforce loyalty during the pandemic through employee benefits
Sydney February 02, 2021
While benefit offerings can often be cut to save costs during difficult times, new research from life insurer MetLife Australia highlights the advantages many employers experienced after increasing employee support and benefits during the pandemic.
Now in its sixth year, the MetLife Employee Benefits Trends Study 2020 surveyed over 300 employers and more than 1,000 employees to better understand how employers can attract, engage, and retain the best talent through their benefit offerings.
Almost half (44%) of employees surveyed said their employer provided more support for their mental and physical health during the pandemic. But while 38% of employers said they had increased employee benefits as a result of the pandemic, 21% of employers said they reduced benefits.
Some changes are here to stay
Of those businesses that reduced benefits, employers said they focused on reductions in salaries, hours and staff, cuts to bonuses, enforced annual leave and removal of additional parental leave, and cuts to social events, insurance and communal foods. The majority of those employers (71%) indicated reductions in benefits were temporary but 21% said they were permanent.
For businesses that increased benefits, employers focused on offering greater flexibility, additional sick leave and personal leave, mental health support and counselling, financial support in the form of additional pay, work from home reimbursements, online social events and support, and physical health support in the form of nutrition and exercise classes.
Employers who increased benefits were much more likely to say the move was permanent (38%), than those who reduced benefits, while only 46% said any changes were temporary.
Consequences for the long term
It’s not hard to see why employers are committed to the expansion of their benefit offerings. For employees who said they received positive support from their employer during the pandemic, 57% claim it has made them feel more loyal to the company as a result, while 37% reported feeling no different. Where employers reduced the level of support for their employees during the pandemic, an overwhelming 62% of employees claim it has led to less loyal towards the company.
There was also a 5% increase in the number of employees (year on year) who said they felt valued at work, which is attributed to increasing the support provided by employers.
MetLife Australia’s Chief Customer and Marketing Officer, Chesne Stafford, said: “The competitive and wellbeing advantages to be gained from increasing benefits during times of crisis are clear, providing a strong business case for employers looking to maintain a competitive edge over the long-term in tough market conditions.
“The research shows employers who are providing more benefits are positively influencing their employees’ wellbeing at a time when more Australians are feeling stressed at work and experiencing poor mental health. In turn, those employees receiving additional support and benefits were more loyal to the company, more appreciative, productive and engaged.
“There was an obvious relationship between level of benefits on offer and the level of support employees felt from their employer. The more benefits an employee was offered, the more likely they were to say they felt supported during the pandemic. There is an opportunity for employers to make sure that their staff understand the benefits on offer.”
Increasing employee engagement, reducing employee stress and improving mental health outcomes have become more important objectives for employers during the pandemic than in previous years when the study has been run. Getting these things right helps with employee retention and increasing productivity.
Outside of simply increasing or reducing benefits, MetLife also saw a shift in how employers are applying their employee benefits strategies. In 2020 there has been more focus on influencing employees’ healthy behaviours and reducing costs to the company. The lessons learnt from the rapid changes to the workplace and employee benefits in 2020, can benefit both employers and employees in 2021.
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