Employers seek to raise perks but not the costs

Benefits professionals expect to be kept busy this year with plans to enhance their organisation’s reward packages, according to research conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

Just under half of respondents (46%) to the CIPD’s Reward management survey 2006 intend to introduce new benefits, 15% plan to expand coverage of benefits packages and a further 11% aim to raise the value of benefits. This is most prevalent in the public sector, where 55% of organisations surveyed look set to continue remodelling the sector’s image to become employers of choice.

At the other end of the scale, 11% of respondents plan to phase out benefits.

Despite introducing a number of new options, employers appear to be keeping an eye on costs and making the most of available tax breaks. Tax-efficient benefits such as childcare vouchers, home computing schemes and bicycle loans topped the list of benefits that employers plan to introduce this year.

Concerns about sickness absence and improving work-life balance also appear to be driving benefits changes among the survey’s 535 respondents. Enhancing paid leave was a popular option, appearing in the top three perks employers planned to increase the value of or expand coverage of. Respondents also anticipated increasing the value of paternity leave and extending the coverage of childcare vouchers and private healthcare benefits.

Despite these planned additions, half of respondents said they expect their benefits spending to stay the same over the coming year. This may be partly because the perks that respondents are planning to phase out – such as company cars, car allowances and income protection – are more expensive to provide than some of the new options.

Not surprisingly, just under a fifth (18%) of those questioned said they intend to alter their pension arrangements. The desire to reduce risk and cut costs were the most common reasons for doing so, cited by 34% and 33% of respondents respectively.

Despite wanting to cut costs, more than a quarter (26%) of respondents plan to raise employer contributions, while 21% plan to raise staff contributions. A further 26% aim to amend existing defined benefit pension schemes to reduce future costs.

Visit www.cipd.co.uk/surveys to download a copy of the survey or call the CIPD Library on 020 8612 6210