Kavitha’s keynote: Health and wellbeing is high on the benefits agenda

Kavitha's keynote

For the second consecutive year, organisations report that the main reason they offer perks is to support the health and wellbeing of their workforce. According to our Benefits research 2019, this has overtaken recruitment and retention as the primary motivation, clearly demonstrating just how much employers are realising the value of keeping staff happy and healthy.

It will probably come as no surprise that the biggest barrier for businesses that want to introduce a new benefit remains the same: budget.

Money is certainly still high on the agenda elsewhere, too, as it seems that rarely a week goes by when our news stories are not exploring fair or equal pay and benefits in some capacity, whether to do with gender, race, disability or something entirely different.

For example, at global investment management organisation Baillie Gifford, both male and female employees can now benefit from a new equal parental leave policy which allows them to take up to 52 weeks of paid parental leave, regardless of length of service. The first 26 weeks are fully paid, with the remaining 13 weeks at half pay. While on leave, employees can also continue to accrue their existing holidays and benefits.

And earlier this week, Employee Benefits reported on figures from the Low Pay Commission which found that around 439,000 were paid less than the hourly minimum wage in April 2018.

The independent body’s research further revealed that most of those who were underpaid work in the hospitality, retail, cleaning and maintenance sectors, while childcare has the highest proportion of underpaid staff. Perhaps unsurprisingly, women are more likely to be paid less than the minimum wage than men, and the youngest and oldest staff are also more vulnerable.

Few could argue with Frances O’Grady, general secretary at the Trades Union Congress, who insisted there should be “no hiding place for bad employers,” but whether a return to government naming and shaming is really the answer to the problem is questionable.

Of course, there will always be employers that knowingly flout the law, and in these instances it is only fair that they are publicly outed for their exploitative behaviour, but in some cases, underpayments are the result of administrative errors or genuinely innocent mistakes.

Non-compliance is a black and white issue in the eyes of the law, but whether those who have plausible reasons for their failings should suffer the reputational and financial consequences of non-compliance is undoubtedly a grey area.


Kavitha Sivasubramaniam
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