The Big Question: What benefits can employers offer staff around weddings?

Sarah Jackson, HR assistant at Hobbs:

In an era when marriage is no longer always the fairytale people aspire to and instead, independence and freedom are often seen as more desirable, it is interesting to look at how this affects employers. It is likely to have an impact on the retail industry, which is often dominated by women.

As an organisation with a 94% female workforce, Hobbs has a focus on its social responsibility with flexible working and family benefits. Weddings are certainly something Hobbs works hard to accommodate for all employees, whether through the wardrobe, gift list, honeymoon plans or time off.

We have just launched the Hobbs Invitation, a collection dedicated to occasion wear. It is a very exciting prospect for our employees, particularly those with that special day approaching, as they have the opportunity to benefit from discounts across the brand using their employee discount card. The family and friends discount, which is offered during specific periods of the year, also allows those nearest and dearest to benefit from the same discount.
The Hobbs Rewards scheme offer discounts at high-street retailers, a stress-free way to buy food for the festivities, whether it is the stag/hen party, dinner with the in-laws, or the wedding day celebrations.

Hobbs makes every effort to be flexible to family commitments, and so provides employees with the opportunity to buy extra holiday to fit around school terms, family commitments or the big day. With these extra days off and the chance to book holidays through our Hobbs Rewards site with organisations such as Thomson and Virgin Holidays, we hope we can help support newlyweds to experience the honeymoon they have always hoped for.

Stuart Hyland, head of reward at Hay Group:

Employers ignore such events at their peril. At a time when firms are fighting for every ounce of employee engagement, sending the near-compulsory bunch of flowers and round-robin congratulations card isn’t really going to cut it and would be a waste of a great opportunity to enhance their reputation and brand with their employees.

If you pause to think about what you might want from your employer in such circumstances, the answer is probably ‘understanding’ and a feeling that they share some of your excitement. However, this might not be true for everyone and it is the challenge for the employer.

Employers need to understand what a particular employee might value and this is where a manager’s relationship and knowledge of their team is critical. Good managers will have invested time in getting to know their people and will be best positioned to suggest an appropriate gesture. Would they appreciate the proverbial toaster/retail vouchers or would they like to work more flexibly to help with the wedding planning?

One manager I know paid for a special meal and champagne for the newlyweds by contacting their honeymoon hotel in the Seychelles directly and this was certainly well received. Get it right and you can only enhance your relationship with employees because they feel more valued and engaged with the business. But get it wrong (or ignore it altogether) and, at best, you will create a sense of disappointment and disconnection. Few of us can afford that these days.

Ivan Robertson, founding director at Robertson Cooper:

One benefit that will probably be really appreciated is the flexibility employees need to make arrangements. The opportunity to leave early or work from home to make the many appointments that come with wedding planning will be much appreciated. In fact, this kind of flexibility is something that should be made available to all employees, wherever possible.

If the groundwork has been done in terms of developing employee engagement, commitment and trust, then staff will not take advantage. Giving employees the opportunity to work in this way increases the chances of inspiring discretionary effort and greater loyalty. Making flexible arrangements available to all will also avoid any disgruntlement from colleagues who are not in special circumstances, whatever they may be.

Some organisations do offer specific wedding-based perks. For example, employees at Innocent Drinks are given an extra five days off after their wedding to recover. Ultimately, it is at the employer’s discretion whether they want to give extra leave, or make any financial contribution, in the same way that they offer any other benefits. What is important is to make sure they treat all employers equally because perceptions of fairness are significant.

Hopefully, the bride or groom gets along well enough with their colleagues that they will invite some of them to the big day. This is a fantastic reflection of strong work relationships, but it can be difficult in a small company or team. Wherever possible, it is worth making this happen. A day spent at a colleague’s wedding is likely to be more effective than any team-bonding day the company can organise.

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