89% of employers offer counselling as a staff benefit

New research has revealed that nine in 10 businesses (89%) offer counselling or an employee assistance programme (EAP) as part of their reward strategy, making it the number one benefit provided by UK organisations.

For its latest benefits and allowances survey, online HR resource XpertHR received responses from 180 organisations which collectively employ more than 262,000 people. It found that the number of businesses that provide counselling has risen by 14% compared to 2019’s figure, while more than one-third (38%) reported to adapting their benefit and reward packages in response to the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) crisis.

Alongside counselling and EAPs, 82% of employers offer other benefits such as life assurance, while 70% provide staff with childcare vouchers and cycle-to-work schemes.

The research found that just 7% of employers have a fully flexible benefits scheme for staff, and more than a third (37%) opt for providing selective initiatives on a flexible basis. The most popular benefits to be offered flexibly are buying and selling annual leave (69%), cycle-to-work schemes (62%) and pension contributions (61%), highlighting that the benefits chosen to be made available on a flexible basis are dependent on employee demand.

Sarah Byrne, HR practice editor at XpertHR, believes that counselling and employee assistance programmes topping the benefit survey comes as “no surprise” following the pandemic, and the spotlight it shone on not only mental health, but overall employee wellbeing.

“It’s great to see so many businesses recognise the needs of their employees and designing benefit packages around them. As the war for talent grows ever more competitive, benefits have become an important tool for attracting and retaining key employees. In the past, salary has dominated applicant priorities, but today the reassurance they will be appreciated and well looked after is paramount to employees,” she said.