Pensions beat flexible working for top spot in employee benefits ranking

Pensions have topped the list of employee benefits HR teams say people value the most, having regained the position two years after flexible working took the top spot in Punter Southall Aspire’s annual survey, although concerns around the advice gap remain.

The research, which was carried out with People Management Insights, found that 900 out of 1,188 HR professionals ranked pensions as the most valued employee benefit amongst staff.

Flexible working was still seen as an important feature, although it ranked lower with 893, followed by mental health and wellbeing on 882.

Commenting on the findings, Punter Southall Aspire chief executive, Steve Butler, explained that while pensions had traditionally been seen as the “jewel in the crown” of employee benefits, the impact of covid and its effect on working patterns had dislodged it, albeit temporarily.

Butler suggested that pensions return to the top spot therefore signalled a return to normal, stating: “Normal has become a concept few of us can agree on but seeing HR teams selecting pensions as the most important employee benefit means we are moving on from dealing with a receding global health crisis to planning for the future again with a measure of confidence.

“This demonstrates the direction of travel – pensions are a constant in a changing world but that doesn’t mean you can ignore them without a cost.”

Yet despite the high ranking of pensions, the research also found that over half (51 per cent) of companies surveyed did nothing to support their staff on how to plan for life after work, while just under a third provide access to some sort of guidance and 12 per cent pay for it.

Given this, Butler warned that the advice gap "remains a canyon", explaining that while pensions are "easy" in principle, members must make "very complex decisions" when approaching retirement, and may turn to their employer for help.

“We know the pressures on payroll and learning and development budgets," he added, clarifying however, that there are free tools available for employers to use to support their staff.

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