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We asked employees which benefits matter most – here are the results

29 November 2023 5 min read

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When it comes to workplace benefits, which matter most to employees? Is it the leave allowance, training and development, wellbeing days or something else? 

Of course salary is important in attracting and retaining talent, but employees are increasingly prioritising benefits packages over pay when it comes to selecting their next role.  

Studies have shown that 91% of UK business owners are facing ‘significant challenges’ when it comes to recruiting and retaining staff, so we looked to carry out research into which benefits employee value most to help organisations focus their thinking and prioritise budget spend when it comes to employee satisfaction and wellbeing. 

We surveyed the UK employees to find out which benefits matter most to them when looking for a new role, as well as which tend to be offered by companies across the country to see how they compare. 

Which benefits do employers currently offer? 

graph showing which employee benefits to employers currently offer

The most common benefits that employees are currently offered include: 

  • Sick pay (above SSP): This benefit was the most sought-after benefit according to our survey, with over 80% of respondents saying this is important to them.
  • Continued professional development: Professional development and the opportunity to learn new skills is something many companies offer, enabling employees to dedicate time to developing their skills.
  • Bereavement leave (covering extended family, friends, and pets): Time off when we lose a loved one is not a statutory entitlement, but many companies offer this in the event that a close family member passes away. The same leave may not be offered for extended family, friends, or beloved pets, but our survey suggests it is desirable for nearly half (45%) of employees.
  • Charity or volunteering days: This is when employees can have a day off work to raise money for, or volunteer, at a charity of their choice. It’s the fifth most common benefit offered by employers, but less than 20% of employees cite it as being important to them. 
  • Full pay maternity leave/long term paternity leave: Maternity and paternity leave are a legal entitlement, however many have argued that the statutory pay and amount of time off permitted could be more generous. It’s great to see that more employers offering full pay during most or all of maternity leave and extended leave for paternity. 

Sought-after benefits 

graph showing which employee benefits are most important when looking for a job

Whilst it is great that employers are offering some incredible benefits already, there are still more benefits that are important to employees. Some other desirable benefits according to our survey include: 

  • A four-day week: Our survey revealed 65% of respondents would want this benefit, even if it meant a reduction in salary. A UK pilot programme of the four-day working week took place in 2022 in which 61 companies and 2,900 employees participated over six months. The four-day week model reduces the 48-hour working week to 32 hours, with no loss of salary for employees. The results of the pilot were positive, with employers reporting that business performance and productivity were maintained, and the number of sick days taken reduced by 61%. Following the pilot, 92% of participating companies decided to continue with the four-day working week. 
  • Birthday leave:  As it says on the tin, this treats employees to an extra day off on their birthday, which is desirable to 45% of those surveyed. 
  • Unlimited annual leave: Another relatively new phenomenon, unlimited holidays are wanted by 34% of respondents. This benefit has pros and cons, but ultimately it allows employees to take as many or as few holidays as they like during the working year. This can be hugely empowering for employees, putting them in control of their work-life balance. However, it’s a major step for most employers to implement, with careful consideration needed.
  • Wellbeing days: With this benefit, staff members would be able to take days off when they’re having a bad mental health day in order to recoup and look after their wellbeing. Wellbeing days – also referred to as mindful or ‘me’ days are important to a third of survey respondents. 

The gap between benefits wanted versus benefits given 

graph showing employee benefits wanted versus those given

There is a clear pattern with the benefits that the workforce wants, and that is more time off with benefits such as wellbeing days, birthdays off and unlimited annual leave proving popular choices in our survey. Whilst extra money and career progression are hugely important, employees want to have more control over their lives, whether that be work or personal. 

Despite salary being a huge factor when taking a job, especially in the current financial climate, a mixture of benefits that address employees’ wants and needs is important. 

Katrina Bennett, People Director at edays, says: “Since the pandemic, many employers have focused their thinking surrounding what employees want and need during different life stages. It’s important to consider what professional development is needed to empower people in their roles, as well as offering the right support for different life stages and circumstances. 

“By continuing to review benefits packages on a yearly basis, organisations can assess whether all of the benefits are being utilised and valued by employees. Employee engagement and pulse surveys are a great way for employers to gather data to help inform their decisions.  

“Considering benefits that will work for both the organisation and its people, will be hugely beneficial to a company’s employment brand so it can stand out amongst competitors. Ensuring that you can remain adaptable and flexible around benefits can also give employers with a limited budget an edge in a competitive recruitment space.”

Georgina at edays
November 29, 2023

Georgina Mackintosh is an accomplished copywriter and marketing professional with a background that spans several industries. Her writing focuses on HR topics such as employee wellbeing, engagement and experience - as well as absence management best practice, how-to guides and news from the HR sector.