Small business guide to employee perks & benefits

Small business guide to employee perks & benefits

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As salaries, working hours and development opportunities are becoming more aligned from business to business, offering staff perks, benefits or incentives is a way of attracting, and retaining, talent. Glassdoor, the career site, says that 57% of all workers rate perks and benefits as one of the top factors they consider when deciding whether to accept a job offer.

What perks are available?

There are numerous employee perks that can be offered to staff, depending on the budget, size and flexibility of the business. In addition, there are now companies set up which offer online databases of workplace benefits. Employers can sign up to these to gain access for their workforce.

Perks will, inevitably, have a financial cost so they need to be budgeted for. Free employee benefits such as casual dress, running clubs or ‘bring your dog to work day’ are a great way of rewarding staff without spending money. Employers could also enter into discounts with local businesses to offer discounts or vouchers to staff, free of charge.

Depending on what the business does, an easy perk to offer is a staff discount. This can be as small or as large as the employer wants, but will increase goodwill in the company and may even increase sales. Other initiatives include free food and drinks, whether healthy fruit or unhealthy breakfast rolls, wellness and health perks, such as a company exercise class or reduced gym memberships, or entertainment passes. There are expensive benefits that can be put in place, for example a company car scheme, but these will need to be financially viable.

Alongside financial perks, employers can offer working benefits that help achieve a better work/life balance. For example, they may choose to offer flexible working perks that allow all employees to request flexible working from day one of their employment, rather than having to gain 26 weeks’ service first. Other perks include increasing holidays, expanding travel allowances and allowing volunteering leave.

Policy on employee perks

To ensure full transparency about the company perks or benefits on offer, employers can consider introducing a policy on this. The benefit of having a policy is that they set out the schemes in place, including the criteria to be eligible, and are available in a central location for all employees to read and understand. This will limit later arguments about whether employees should receive the perk or not. If employers do not want to create a separate policy, they can include a perks page within their company intranet or publicise perks on a central noticeboard so all employees can see current benefits on offer. It will then be important to continually update these areas, and remove perks as they are stopped.

Having a hand-out or brochure containing employee perks can also be used as a way of attracting staff during recruitment stages or the induction process. Including current benefits within job adverts will, again, attract staff to apply to the business.

Offering incentives

Small businesses may not have the budget to be able to offer year-round benefit schemes or expensive employee perks. Instead, they can consider offering work incentives to staff. Incentives can be ran on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, rewarding staff with a prize once they meet a specified target. The reward could be as simple as a box of chocolates, getting an early finish or having a dress down day, although greater rewards can be given for greater targets.

Incentives are a great way of increasing productivity and meeting targets, whilst rewarding staff for their hard work. Having a fun or competitive target, such as challenging teams to beat others, will spur staff on. Incentives could also be tailored to specific times of the year, such as a Christmas incentive to win a Christmas hamper or an Easter incentive.

Commission and holiday pay

An employee perk which is commonly applied in sales roles is to provide employees with commission based on their work carried out. This will provide employees with greater pay at times they have achieved higher sales, and lower pay at times they have failed to achieve set targets.

If choosing to run commission schemes as employee perks, employers need to be aware that there is a binding case which says commission should be included in holiday pay calculations for the first four weeks of holiday leave. This is to ensure employees are receiving their ‘normal’ pay when on holiday, and not missing out. A failure to include commission amounts in holiday pay could lead to a tribunal claim against the business.

Risks

Although employee perks are seen as a positive matter, they do have the potential to cause conflict or complaints.

Benefit schemes need to be designed to avoid discrimination risks. These are likely to crop up where, for example, flexible working perks or childcare benefits are only offered to women and not men. To limit these risks, all benefits should be made available to all staff, regardless of their gender, disability, age etc. As well as preventing discrimination claims, offering benefits to all staff will remove the potential for complaints, or even grievances, about favouritism or bias amongst staff.

Employee perks should also be provided on a pro-rata basis to part-time workers to ensure there can be no claims of less favourable treatment. For example, if additional holiday is offered as a perk, part-time workers should receive a proportion of this depending on the proportion of time they spend working in comparison to a full-time worker.