Employee benefits: Jam today or jam tomorrow?

What would you do with a £500 windfall? The answer, it seems, depends very much on the strings attached. A no-questions-asked bonus of £500 cash is one thing (a new outfit or weekend away?) but when the bonus is in the form of a workplace benefit, the answer gets very complicated indeed.

We’ve conducted a survey of the views of 2,400 UK employees into workplace benefits. The results showed marked differences in the preferences of different age groups, and between men and women, when it comes to the benefits they would most like to receive. But we also asked a series of questions based on what they would do if they had a bonus to spend on benefits - and the answers show what complicated beings we are.

When we asked the survey participants what they would do if they had a one-off bonus of £500 that they could take as extra pay or spend on benefits, most said they would spend it on extra holiday. Only 17% said they would take the money as additional pay.

Overall, the results of the survey show that employees tend to value pensions and share plans most highly as a workplace benefit. But when offered the extra £500, only 8% said that they would invest the money in their share plan. Perhaps this is because we like to ‘see’ and ‘feel’ an unexpected bonus – and spend it on something more immediately tangible.

We then asked the survey participants if they would be willing to exchange 5% of their pay for a new employee benefit, and the picture changed once again; two-thirds said they would rather keep the pay and refused to take a new benefit.

The results of the survey show just how complicated employee benefits can be as an incentive – different demographic groups have very different preferences and employees in general have very fine-tuned ideas about how they like to be rewarded. Reward is the most significant and expensive investment that most companies will make – this survey illustrates just how difficult it is to spend that money wisely.


John Harding | Partner
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