Gary Brewer: Does paternalism still have a place in benefits?

It may be possible to characterise the external context on a paternalistic approach to benefits as a sublime political irony, whereby a Conservative government is seeking to have private sector employers fulfil the role of ‘state’ provider or, alternatively, we stand on the cusp of a return to the days of the over-lording employer as munificent benefactor.

I would prefer to say we all have to face the challenges of austerity together. So what of paternalism?

Drawing on my experience at William Grant and Sons, the key question is: why do we deliver benefits in the positive fashion that we do?

Perhaps because others do and the market demands this of us. Perhaps because we are socially responsible, with a tradition of showing care and consideration for our employees.

But I believe we do this because it is a well-considered part of our reward strategy; part of why we have high levels of staff engagement and low turnover; and why we have inspirational examples of loyalty and great performance.

In turn, we expect all these factors to translate into a positive impact on our brand building; our work on premiumisation and, ultimately, on our financial performance.

There is no complacency. We face challenges to make our benefits fresh and appealing to different generations and need to be mindful of what we can afford. We must be true to our principles of administrative simplicity in how we run our benefits. But I won’t spend a lot of time thinking whether our approach is paternalistic, preferring to consider what actually works for us.

Gary Brewer is head of reward and organisational development at William Grant and Sons