Two-fifths (42%) of organisations have made, or are planning to make, significant changes to its benefit programmes as a result of the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, according to research by Willis Towers Watson.
Its survey of 177 UK employers, between 20 April 2020 and 1 May 2020, also found that many employers are expecting an increase in cost to benefits; 44% are expecting sick leave costs to increase, while over a third (34%) expect group life assurance and dependant pension costs to rise.
A further quarter (25%) envision an increase in healthcare costs and group income protection. Due to these predictions, over a third (37%) are planning to review the way medical benefit plans are designed.
The vast majority (87 to 98%) of employers (depending on the individual benefit) are still offering existing benefits to furloughed employees.
The research also found that 60% of businesses are looking to enhance their wellbeing programmes, while 58% are looking to improve their mental health and stress management services. Over a quarter (26%) are addressing their annual leave policies, while more than one in five (23%) are looking to improve voluntary benefits.
The benefits that employers expect to reduce are annual leave benefits (8%), retirement benefits (5%), health care benefits (4%) and sick leave (4%).
Additionally, 28% of employers have taken action to measure employee anxiety during the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, while a further 47% have planned or are considering doing so.
More than a third (39%) have expanded or provided access to telemedicine, while 7% of businesses have created access to Coronavirus testing.
Just under two-thirds (61%) believe that communicating benefits and wellbeing programmes are a top priority this year.
More than three-quarters (79%) of employers believe that employee assistance programmes (EAPs) are the way forward for raising awareness around employee wellbeing, while almost two-thirds (65%) believe that online mental health services are effective and just under half (47%) believe wellbeing apps can help raise awareness.
Kevin Newman, head of health and benefits at Willis Towers Watson, said: “The Coronavirus pandemic will prompt big changes in employee benefit programmes for many [organsiations]. Some will be forced to get better value from their benefits, both from a cost and communications perspective. Some will look to enhance certain areas and dial-down others as priorities shift. But most [organisations] at some point are likely to look at what they currently provide employees and ask, ‘are these benefits still relevant and is the balance still right for the new working environment?’”