With workplace benefits, one size doesn’t fit all

We’ve known for a while that men are from Mars and women from Venus, but it seems that the differences between the sexes also extend to our views on workplace benefits.

We’ve just released the results of a survey that shows just how differently men and women – as well as the different generations – think about employee benefits. Some of the differences  are more predictable than others; women were almost twice as likely as men to ask for childcare benefits to be introduced, for example, and 29% of men named a company car as the benefit they’d most like to receive, compared with 21% of women. But some are more surprising; pensions were 5% more popular with men than with women, while medical insurance was rated highly by 32% of women but only 24% of men (perhaps reflecting the belief that men are notoriously doctor-shy).

Where women and men agreed, though, was in favouring benefits that cut the cost of living. Asked to rank a selection of new benefits, discount shopping vouchers (named by 44%) was the most popular option followed closely by access to better mortgage rates – and mortgage benefits were significantly more appealing to those in their 30s than other age groups.

The survey also showed how the young are more willing to take risks with their pay than older workers – and so are better candidates for variable pay. Asked if they would swap £1,000 of their salary for the opportunity to receive a performance-related bonus of £5,000, 36% of those under the age of 20 agreed, compared to 18% of those between the age of 40 and 59.

Generation Y also had strong preferences about benefits; 32% would choose a company car, compared with 27% of those aged 40 or over, and half of under 20s said they would swap 5% of their salary in exchange for free food and drink at work. It’s perhaps not a coincidence, then, that gym membership declines in popularity as a benefit with age, favoured by only 13% of those aged 50 or more.

The survey results are certainly entertaining but there’s a valuable message here; when it comes to reward decisions, one size by no means fits all. Businesses are missing a trick if they don’t tailor their work place benefits according to age and gender – benefits are an important investment so it’s essential to think carefully not just about what you’re offering, but who you’re offering it to.


John Harding | Partner
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