New research from MetLife UK has found that SME bosses are planning to increase the benefits they offer staff in addition to pensions over the next two years as they focus on retention and recruitment.
Its study of companies employing between 50 and 300 staff – which make up around 34,000 businesses with an annual turnover of £541 billion and employing 3.3 million people – found 57% of firms plan to increase benefits.
24% plan to significantly increase their employee benefits package while 33% will slightly expand the benefits on offer by adding additional services or enhancing terms. Companies employing between 100 and 199 staff are the most likely to significantly increase benefits with 27% saying they will offer new benefits compared with just 19% among companies with 200 to 300 staff.
Around 19% of SME senior managers said benefits which specifically address health and wellbeing would be their first choice while 11% said they would like to see benefits which are suitable for employees who work from home.
Adrian Matthews, employee benefits director at MetLife UK, said: “SMEs are very much focused on retaining and recruiting staff and increasingly recognise the role that a well-designed benefits package can play in addition to salary.
“Smaller employers are already competing for staff with large corporates on pay and business profile and may struggle to attract and retain skilled employees if they cannot offer the benefits that many now expect at work.
“Group Life and Group Income Protection are benefits that employees value and cost much less than employers often think – for example around 0.5% of salary for income protection and 0.2% of salary for life.”
MetLife’s research found more than half of SMEs (51%) say sickness absence is a significant issue for their business with 20% saying it is a very significant issue: benefits such as Group Income Protection can help mitigate the impact.
The study found around 27% of SME owners say benefits play a major role in engaging and motivating their staff while 24% say regularly communicating their benefits package helps with driving engagement.
Around 84% of SME bosses believe staff are engaged in their day-to-day work with 33% saying staff are highly engaged.