Chris Read

Chris Read

Head of Group Risk, Corporate Benefits, at Benefex

People are currently going through the worst time financially since the global crisis of 2008. First it was Covid-19, and the toll the pandemic took on their physical, mental and financial wellbeing; now it’s the cost-of-living crisis, and the strain they’re under as they strive to stretch their pay packet as far as possible. 

A perfect storm of factors, from soaring food, fuel and utility costs and rising interest rates to slow wage growth and tax increases, is prompting many people to turn to their employers for help. Benefit packages have gone from being a nice-to-have perk to something that, if they’re properly thought through by employers who want to deliver a truly exceptional workplace experience that nurtures and retains the people they need to thrive, can be a real force for good. 

Competition creates choice 

Insurance companies can be a crucial source of the kind of wellbeing support that people are looking for from their employers. Thanks to a fiercely competitive marketplace, most providers have begun to innovate and enhance their offerings over the past few years. We’ve seen a massive shift from a stance in which cost is the most important factor to one in which added value for the workforce is paramount.  

There are now a range of ‘add-ons’ to insurance policies that employers can incorporate for free into their benefits programmes. One example is digital doctors. This service, which comes as a ‘freebie’ with some Income Protection and PMI policies, enables employees to talk to a remote GP within two hours of requesting an appointment; they can have access to unlimited face-to-face video consultations with a UK-based GP, any time, day or night, 365 days a year.   

Tools such as health-management apps, online financial support, and digital employee assistance programmes are also readily available. 

But all this innovation comes with its own issues. For example, different insurance companies provide very similar extras, so it can be difficult for an employer to decide on the right ones for their workforce. And employees can find it a challenge to navigate all the various options and make an informed choice that will maximise the value they get. 

Three steps to maximising value 

So how can you as an employer ensure that you’re not overwhelmed by choice paralysis and that your people get as much support as they can, to keep them happy, healthy and productive? 

The first thing is to know your workforce inside out, so that you have an accurate picture of their needs, and you can offer a package of benefits that will meet them. This is where your HR team plays a crucial role in gathering the right information and using it to help build a benefits programme that’s of real value to your employees and your organisation. 

For example, if you know that your workforce may be struggling because their pay isn’t keeping pace with living costs, offering expert advice on a range of everyday financial topics and access to a counselling service, alongside retail vouchers or discounts, could be just the support they need. 

The second thing is to have the technology in place that makes it as easy as possible for your employees to find everything that you have to offer and to make the choices that are right for them. Having a central benefits platform, such as Benefex’s OneHub, to draw all the benefits from different providers into one, accessible place enables you to communicate your programme more effectively and means that employees don’t miss a benefit that could be incredibly useful to them. 

And the third thing is to get expert support from benefits consultants. They can use their deep knowledge of the market to advise you on the best options available, helping you to identify high quality products that fit your employees’ needs as closely as possible. 

These free, added-value services have evolved considerably over the past few years. If you use them correctly, they will help your employees to stay happy and healthy and give you a genuine and tangible return on your investment. 


Chris Read

Chris Read

Head of Group Risk, Corporate Benefits, at Benefex

An experienced consulting leader with more than 19 years’ experience working in Financial Services and over 15 years specialising in Group Risk Employee Benefits.