Benefits at Christmas time

By Charles Cotton, Senior Adviser for Performance and Reward, CIPD

This year’s CIPD reward management survey in association with LCP looks at the issue of employee benefits. It finds that there are a number of perks associated with the Christmas period.

The most common benefit is a Christmas event, such as a party or lunch, with over 60% of respondents to our survey indicating that they provide one to all of their employees. However, while around two thirds of private and voluntary sector employers offer this benefit, just 33% of employers in the public sector do likewise. Also, within the private sector, small and medium (69%) companies are more likely to have a Christmas event compared with large (54%) or very large (29%) firms.

Another common benefit associated with Christmas is the practice of allowing employees to have their internet purchases delivered to their workplace, with 55% of respondents offering this to all of their people. This perk is most likely to be offered by the voluntary sector.

Some 18% of employers are also planning on giving a Christmas gift to their staff, such as shopping vouchers, alcohol or a hamper. A further 14% of employers will offer a Christmas bonus to their workforce; a practice which is most prevalent in the private sector.

And it’s not just financial perks at play. A traditional event around this time of year is the school nativity play, and 10% of the employers we surveyed give paid leave to parents to attend these and other associated school events. Employers in the public sector are most likely to offer this benefit (12%) closely followed by the voluntary and private sectors (11%). However, line managers do need to think about the wider team for this kind of reward. For instance, if you are offering time off for parents so they can see their child’s nativity play it’s only fair that other team members are given the opt-in to have the same amount of time off, for Christmas shopping or however they choose.

Despite the hype around so-called ‘Pawternity leave’ employees who get a dog this Christmas are unlikely to be provided with paid leave to spend time with them, with fewer than 0.5% of respondents offering this perk. Though if they do get a dog, there’s 5% chance of them working for an employer that will allow them to bring it to work on ‘bring your dog to work day’.

While Christmas for many is a time for celebration, it can also be an expensive affair. For those who extend themselves financially over the Christmas period, 16% of employers offer their staff hardship loans directly, while 5% offer employees access to loans through a third party selected by the organisation.

Christmas can also be a time for excess in other ways. For those wanting to get into a better physical or mental shape after the festivities, 43% of organisations in our research offer a cycle-to-work scheme; 26% provide access to a gym (on-site, subsidised or discounted membership); 20% have free fruit; 12% make available on-site fitness classes; 11% arrange for relaxation courses; 9% on-site massages; and 3% have a personal fitness trainer for their staff. For those wanting to get into spiritual shape, 8% have a workplace chaplain or similar faith support.

By offering appealing benefits, the theory goes, you should be able to create a competitive advantage in the labour market by signalling that you care about your staff and that you offer such a generous range of benefits that employees want to come and stay with you.

Of course, like dogs, employee benefits aren’t just for Christmas and employers should be thinking about how they can engage with and reward staff throughout the year. However, our survey found that while many benefits are on offer, employers aren’t always taking the time to analyse how they are being used, with almost three in four admitting that they don’t assess the value of their benefit spend. This means that employers may be paying for perks that aren’t used and in doing so are missing out on rewards that would be much more appealing to the existing workforce and future recruits. Lack of communication is sometimes to blame for poor uptake of some benefits so it’s important that reward professionals and HR teams are looking at a range of ways in which they can keep staff updated on reward but are also encouraging feedback from employees on what they do find or would find most appealing.

Reward and HR professionals should look at all of their existing and potential staff benefits and see how they support both the business needs of the organisation as well as the needs and wants of the employees. By reviewing the benefits’ strategy and delivery, the people profession should be in a position to show the value that they bring to the employer and the workforce.

To you and your loved ones, my colleagues and I wish you all a relaxing, rapturous and reflective Christmas and New Year.

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