Understanding which employee benefits matter most to the UK workforce

We want to know what matters. Aviva surveyed 2,000 employees and over 500 employers to understand what job perks really matter to the UK workforce.

three employees gathered around a computer screen

Employee benefits: A survey from the UK workplace

To understand where the UK stands on workplace benefits, Aviva surveyed 2,000 employees and over 500 employers from varying business sizes to get their thoughts on what job perks really matter to them.

The data reveals employee benefit schemes that support employees outside the workplace were rated highly, along with those that have a long term impact. For example, 41% of those surveyed wanted a pension scheme, whereas only 16% wanted free meals.

Male and female employees also had different priorities when it came to choosing their place of work, and which benefits appealed to them the most. To foster diversity in the workplace, employers need to be mindful of these differences and tailor support accordingly.

Salary and work life balance are the core reasons why people start a job - but work life balance makes them stay

The research showed that salary was one of the core reasons why employees choose an employer, with 41% of those surveyed citing it as a priority. This is to be expected. However, salary shared the top spot with work life balance - also cited by 41% as a key reason why they joined their present employer.

When looking at why people stay with their employers, work life balance overtakes salary in importance. 44% of employees stated it was one of the main reasons why they continued in their current role.

what matters most

This is not the full picture, though. Splitting the results by gender, while 48% of men said salary mattered most, only 35% of women did. For women, work life balance was more important. Women also cared more about location - 44% of females compared to 32% of males.

different priorities

Support when it matters most

More traditional staff perks remain popular. Annual leave still matters the most, with 44% of those surveyed identifying it as one of the workplace benefits of greatest interest to them. A pension scheme was a close second at 41%.

However, looking at the overall list, people cared more about the benefits that would support them long term, and when the unexpected happens. Flexible work hours and paid sick leave / critical illness cover both appeared in the top five. 

10 benefits that people want most

Of the benefits that people cared less about, ‘dogs in the office’ was cited, with only one in 20 employees wanting this. This was closely followed by entertainment at work. One in four people also had no interest in being sociable, with workplace social events being something people would be happy to go without.

dogs in the office

Interestingly, the choices of people surveyed in London differed from the UK average. More people in the capital wanted free meals compared to the rest of the country, as well as subsided travel. This possibly reflects the higher costs of living in London. 

Londoners' choices are different

Changing work environments are changing what employees expect

In the current fast-paced work environment, we know that jobs can be demanding with many workers always being contactable. Accordingly, people expect their employers to look after their mental health. A wellness allowance was by far the most popular requested benefit, allowing staff to have access to money to help support staying mentally fit and well at work. But only one-third of employers would be willing to provide this benefit to their workers. 

What's wanted, and what's offered

As with the more traditional benefits, demand differs depending on gender.  Women are much keener on duvet days than men, with over one-third of women wanting the scheme, compared to just a quarter of men. But only one in five business leaders would be willing to grant this benefit to their staff. 

Benefit appeal by gender

One in five UK employees say no workplace benefits are on offer to them

The research suggests a significant proportion of people don’t take advantage of workplace benefits because there aren’t any available to them. For those workers who do have access, there appears to be a number of reasons why they don’t take advantage of them. Chief of these is a lack of interest, closely followed by the feeling that a particular benefit is irrelevant to their needs. Some also felt that there was a lack of information as to what benefits are available to them. 

workplace benefits
Why don't employees use benefits offered to them

Do companies struggle to offer benefits?

The data suggests that business leaders can find it difficult to put in place staff benefits that their employees will appreciate and use.

Although cost was given as the biggest reason for not doing so, some larger companies with big workforces felt that the time required to implement benefits was a significant barrier. And for SMEs, one of the biggest problems encountered was shown to be the lack of resources to implement and manage an employee benefits scheme.

Reasons why employers struggle to offer competitive benefits
Reasons why employers struggle to offer competitive benefits

Supporting our staff at Aviva Investors

The survey shows that people seem to truly understand what they want and need, but their employers don’t necessarily have the capacity to give it to them. At Aviva Investors, we have a number of programmes to attract and retain staff, and support equality in the workplace. These aim to provide a long-term benefit, both to staff and us as a business.

Our Return to Work programme is a six month initiative for finance professionals returning to work after an extended career break of two years or more. It means we are able to welcome and support the very best talent when they’re ready to come back to work.

There is still a lot of imbalance in the finance industry as a whole. One way to promote equality and diversity in the workplace is by having a diverse senior leadership team. The Aviva Investors Women in Leadership programme aims to help women in finance develop the skills they need for their future careers.

We also have a shared parental leave policy. Our ground-breaking Equal Parental Leave initiative helps remove parenting as an obstacle to career progression as it levels the playing field for men and women who want to spend time with their family.

If you’re looking to start a new future at Aviva Investors, we are excited to hear from you. Find your role here. 

Survey details

Based on responses from 502 employers, grouped by size:

  • 1-9 employees
  • 10-49 employees
  • 50-99 employees
  • 100-249 employees
  • 250-500 employees
  • 500+ employees

2011 employees were asked to choose up to three reasons that attracted them to their current role and three reasons why they now stay in it from a list of 11. They were also asked to choose up to five workplace benefits they are most interested in and five they are least interested in from a list of 19.

Employers were asked to pick all of the reasons they thought prevented an update in employee benefits from a list of eight.

The results of this survey were originally published on Aviva.co.uk