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Rising costs affecting more than half of UK business strategies for employee benefits

Investment in benefits still a major priority for attracting and retaining talent

July 13, 2023

Health and Benefits

LONDON, 13 July 2023 – More than half of businesses in the UK (57%) say that rising costs are influencing their strategy for employee benefits. Yet, as companies continue to grapple with attracting and retaining key talent, investment in benefits remains a major priority. That’s according to WTW’s 2023 Benefits Trends Survey (NASDAQ: WTW).

Compared with two years ago, concerns around rising costs have accelerated, as it’s now the second most important issue influencing benefit strategies, despite not even being in the top four issues in 2021.

Yet competition for talent is the number one issue faced by employers in 2023, as 77% of companies cite this as a factor influencing their benefits strategy. In fact, only two-fifths of organisations (43%) feel that their current benefits plan is effective or highly effective in attracting and retaining key talent.

As a result, a key area of focus for more than half of companies (56%) is to ensure that benefit plans meet the needs of all employees, as half (49%) look to focus on the wellbeing of their employees. 

However, striking a balance between addressing these conflicting matters might prove a challenge. Employers are anticipating cost to be a top challenge for benefit budgets in next two years, as 46% say they are concerned about the persistence of higher inflation, while 36% expect an impact from the weakening economy and current business environment.

In a bid to conserve costs, more than half of employers (56%) have taken action to improve terms from vendor contracts, while 79% are planning to take action. More than a third of companies (37%) have taken action to bundle different services into one package from a single vendor, while 47% plan to do so. Alternatively, 27% of companies in the UK have secured additional funding for benefit programmes, while over a third (54%) are planning on doing so.

For some employers, their only option is to cut down on the amount of benefits they offer in response to rising costs.  7% of employers have opted to reduce the generosity of their benefit programmes overall, while 16% have plans to do so.

Andy Leighton, Senior Strategic Consultant at WTW says: “The current state of both the economic and labour market is putting employers in a precarious position, when determining how to win the competition for talent and contend with the rising cost of services, while budgets remain tight.

“It’s a fine balance between streamlining benefit operations to become more cost-effective, while maintaining a focus on personalised benefit areas that are tailored to the individual needs of the workforce.

It’s a fine balance between streamlining benefit operations to become more cost-effective, while maintaining a focus on personalised benefit areas that are tailored to the individual needs of the workforce.”

Andy Leighton | Senior Strategic Consultant at WTW

“This is especially challenging when employees are demanding increasingly comprehensive benefit provisions which support key areas of inclusive wellbeing, lifestyle and financial protection, and are at the same time environmentally and socially conscious; as a result employers will not want to backpedal.”

About the survey

WTW surveyed 339 UK organisations across a broad range of industries about their benefit strategies between 1 March 2023 and 14 April 2023 for its 2023 Benefit Trends Survey.

About WTW

At WTW (NASDAQ: WTW), we provide data-driven, insight-led solutions in the areas of people, risk and capital. Leveraging the global view and local expertise of our colleagues serving 140 countries and markets, we help organizations sharpen their strategy, enhance organizational resilience, motivate their workforce and maximize performance.

Working shoulder to shoulder with our clients, we uncover opportunities for sustainable success—and provide perspective that moves you.

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