Employers spend less on benefits

Benefits - thumbnail

The number of employers spending over 20% of employees’ salary costs on workplace benefits has dropped from a third in 2014 to a quarter this year, according to a study from Towers Watson.

Just over a quarter (29%) of employers spend 11-15% on benefits, according to the study.

The annual Benefits HealthCheck survey of 82 mid-sized enterprises with 500 to 2,000 staff also found that although businesses with legacy defined benefit (DB) pension schemes still have higher costs than those operating purely defined contribution (DC) schemes, the gap has closed over the past year following further reductions in the number of employers that operate a DB scheme.

Further results include:

  • 66% of respondents said they have a consistent strategy across their workplace benefits and that it is aligned to their business priorities. But only a minority (20%) are able to adequately measure the success of their benefit plans.
  • Around a third (35%) of employers surveyed are planning to review and change their existing plans to accommodate the needs of their multi-generational workforce.
  • The top priorities of employers surveyed are to use benefits to help retain existing employees and attract new talent (34%), followed by staying competitive (23%) when compared to their peers and managing costs (20%).

Will Aitken, senior consultant at Towers Watson, said: “There has been a significant reduction in the average cost of benefits as a percentage of salaries in the past year. This is mostly due to the continued trend in mid-sized businesses towards DB pension plan closure and plan design changes.

“We expect this trend to continue as we get closer to the end of contracting-out, as more DB pension schemes start to redesign ahead of the new legislation of pension freedoms.

“The multi-generational nature of many workforces is causing challenges for benefit design, particularly as we see a trend towards employees working longer into their sixties and seventies. This can put significant pressure on the cost as well as design of benefits.

“The main workplace benefit priorities for employers are driven by competition, either explicitly benchmarking themselves against competitors or in order to establish themselves as the employer of choice for existing and prospective employees. Managing costs is also a priority area in benefit design and it appears that companies have been successful in this area over the past 12 months as costs per employee have come down as a proportion of salary.”