How can SMEs offer a valuable staff benefit package

Small to medium enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of the UK economy. Just look at the figures:

  • SMEs make up more than 99% of UK businesses
  • They employ three fifths of the UK’s private sector  workforce
  • They have between 1-250 employees.

But how are SMEs shaping up when it comes to offering valuable employee benefits?  

In July 2020, we surveyed more than 700 SME businesses to find out the challenges they face and where staff benefits fall on their priority list.

Six top concerns and challenges for SMEs

  1. Attracting and retaining staff
    SMEs are increasingly competing for talent, so offering an attractive benefits package is one way they can stand out. In fact, 32% of SMEs we surveyed said attracting and retaining staff was a day-to-day concern.

    Higher salaries are not always enough to attract the right person for the job and it’s not always possible for SMEs to offer this. Providing additional benefits to support staff in their everyday lives and in difficult times is something SMEs can do at a cheaper cost than they might expect. 
  2. Mental health
    The challenges around poor mental health of staff is a growing concern for SMEs. Largely driven by media attention and a change in staff expectations, 83% of our respondents said mental health was either a minor (51%) or major (32%) concern.

    The Mental Health Foundation states nearly one in seven people experience mental health problems in the workplace.[1] We found 23% of SMEs are seeing an increase in short-term absence due to mental health, which could be costly to the bottom line.

    When we conducted our research we found 33% of the SMEs were concerned about how to support staff with their mental health needs. This is likely to increase as the long-term impact of COVID-19 on mental health becomes apparent. The Institute for Fiscal Studies recently reported that mental health has worsened by 8.1% on average compared to before the pandemic.[2]
  3. Physical health
    We found 81% of our respondents had either a minor concern (56%) or major concern (25%) about the physical health of their employees. Nearly half said supporting the long-term physical health of employees was their top priority.

  4. Keeping costs down
    41% of respondents told us keeping costs down was a day-to-day concern. As a smaller business – particularly if it is growing – managing budgets and finances is a high priority and can mean the difference between success and failure.

    However, investing in staff can create a happier, healthier workforce, which could lead to better staff retention, improved productivity and reduced absenteeism. All this could have a positive impact on the bottom line for SMEs.

  5. Company size matters
    Of the businesses we surveyed, we found SME benefit packages vary depending on the size of the company, with larger SMEs tending to offer more benefits. Benefits can also vary depending on whether there is a dedicated person responsible for them. Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, we found it’s not always down to cost and SMEs want to keep staff by offering a package employees value.

  6. Valued benefits

    SME employees value a range of different benefits. While Private Medical Insurance is important (50%), we found that workplace wellbeing support was high on the agenda (39%) followed by life insurance (38%) and mental wellbeing, wellness apps and webinars (34%).

    Other desired benefits included guidance on personal finance management (31%) and critical illness cover (30%).

    While SMEs tend to offer useful in-house workplace benefits such as internal initiatives and events, there are still opportunities to stretch further to provide benefits employees truly value. This means supporting employees to feel financially secure should they become unable to work and providing them with tools to build resilience to cope with pressures that can impact their mental health.

How group protection can support your SME clients

Cost-effective solutions
Many group protection products now include wellbeing support, but often SMEs are unaware of that. For example, 10% of those who had mental wellbeing apps, tools, and webinars paid for them separately.

When talking to your SME clients, it’s always worth asking them whether they currently already pay for some of these services. Accessing these through their group protection products could save them money in the long term.

Support mental health
From the Stress Helpline, available to Group Life and Critical Illness customers, to the Thrive: Mental Wellbeing app, available for Group Income Protection customers, we can support the mental health of the SME workforce. Last year, 57% of our rehabilitation cases were related to mental health issues. 94% of all employees with a mental health condition that returned to work with our support, did so before a claim commenced.

Support physical health
For Group Income Protection and Critical Illness customers, the Aviva DigiCare+ Workplace app is provided by Square Health and offers an annual health check which examines 20 different health markers. This helps to identify problems early including diabetes risk, cholesterol status and liver health. This is just one of five clinical led services available through the app.

Aviva also offer Get Active gym discounts with all our Group Protection products. For SME clients looking to support their employee’s physical health, we've got it covered.

Please remember these services are non-contractual benefits that Aviva can amend or withdraw at any time. The services are available to employees who are permanent residents of Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man

It takes Aviva to help you give your clients the support they deserve. 

Find out more about Aviva’s Group Protection for SMEs.