JLT Employee Benefits (JLT) has released its latest quarterly 250 Club survey of the top 250 UK firms. The objective of the present edition was to assess the impact of auto-enrolment on workplace benefit offerings. The survey found that auto-enrolment has prompted some firms to overhaul their entire benefit offerings as they looked to integrate auto-enrolment pension into the overall benefit mix.

JLT says that the auto-enrolment process has encouraged employers to review the way they deliver benefits, leading an increasing number of employers to recognise the added value of benefits platforms in terms of support for pensions (and especially auto-enrolment requirements), increased employee engagement and understanding of the true value of their packages and automatic renewal information, saving time and money for organisations). As a result, they are keener to invest in this type of solution.

59% of respondents used a benefits platform to manage auto-enrolment, 25% of whom indicated they used a dedicated employee benefits platform. Over two thirds of employers (67%) stated that their view

of how employee benefits platforms can be used had been changed following auto-enrolment, with over half (51%) having gone for full flexible benefits on their employee benefits and a further 12% indicating the dedicated employee benefit platform they use means they will be introducing flexible benefits for all employee benefits in the future.

The survey also found that cost saving was not the main motivation for employers to review benefits at the same time as the auto-enrolment implementation. Only a very small minority (6%) of respondents removed the link between ancillary benefits (such as Group Life and Private Medical Insurance) and pension scheme membership in order to reduce costs; over three times as many respondents (19%) reporting that they had increased the link to some extent.

UK GBP Notes (PD)According to the survey, the majority of employers strive to ensure employees understand, appreciate and value the benefits on offer to them, given their considerable costs, with 55% of organisations reporting they are ensuring employees are aware of benefits and 45% making sure they value them. In addition, 44% of organisations also use benefits to attract and retain staff, showing that one of the "traditional" reasons for having employee benefits, such as income protection and private medical insurance (PMI), still hold true.

JLT also aimed to ascertain how the improving UK economy has impacted benefit programmes offered by companies. For almost one third (32%) ancillary benefits have been provided on top of pay rises as usual, whilst 10% indicated that these benefits had been provided in the place of pay rises. A further 11% had provided these improvements on an employee voluntary basis. Almost one in five (19%) respondents indicated that their organisation had considered extending coverage offered under benefits to all their employees, with a further 17% stating that coverage could be extended to a limited number of employees.

Employers would be much more inclined to extend cover to employees if they were able to obtain a government incentive, with 71% saying they would consider extending cover to all employees and 68% saying they would consider extending cover to some employees. Three quarters (75%) of those respondents who said they had removed the link between ancillary benefits and pension scheme membership due to auto-enrolment, also stated that they would investigate extending coverage if they could obtain a government incentive.

Nick Boyton, Principal, JLT Employee Benefits said: "Auto-enrolment has prompted companies to think more in terms of total rewards packages, rather than just narrower salary definitions.

"As the economy gains momentum, employers are conscious they must now look at different ways of differentiating themselves in the battle for talent, rather than simply offering larger pay packages. They also actively communicate on auto-enrolment and benefits to ensure they are understood or appreciated by their employees. However, unsurprisingly many employers are only happy to do so provided they breakeven in spending terms. This is why Government incentives can have a substantial influence on benefit offerings."

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