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Business Now Features


The Business Sense of Employee Benefits

The Business Sense of Employee Benefits

Acumen Employee Benefits’ team of experts guides employers to motivate and engage workers

Engaged employees produce better business outcomes than other employees – across industries, company sizes and nationalities. In good economic times and bad.

That’s according to a Gallup workplace report1 which adds engaged business units see a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity, with engaged workers more likely to stay with their employers, achieve better outcomes for customers and increase profitability.

But how do employers help create that culture? One thing’s for sure – it has to be more than lip service.

In fact, the CIPD2 says employee benefits offer a way to attract and retain people, contribute towards improving well-being and encourage the required behaviours, achievements, values and skills.

And that’s in line with Acumen Employee Benefit’s (AEB) perspective: tailored benefits packages are an important part of attracting, engaging with, motivating and retaining the right people.

Recently established in the north-east of Scotland, AEB has assembled an experienced team of experts who work with clients to implement this personalised approach, drawing from a wide range of benefits such as salary exchange, group risk policies, or private healthcare provision.

Acumen Employee Benefits is part of The Financial Planning Group, home to award winning firm, Acumen Financial Planning, and are based at their office in Westhill.

The team

The team is led by Andy Eason, who has 30 years’ experience in the employee benefits service sector and has delivered consultancy services to a wide range of clients, from SMEs through to multinational public limited companies.

He has since brought in key members of the consultancy team, including Anne Lawson, who has worked in an Aberdeen employee benefits consultancy for over 25 years, and is recognised for her oil-and-gas sector expertise.

Nigel Saunders recently joined too. He has a broad employee benefits background with a number of years based in the south. Both are highly respected professionals in their field – importantly too, they know the regional business sector inside out.

In addition, AEB has an experienced administration team. Another key link in the chain of recruitment was when Nicola Norrie joined. Nicola has an enviable reputation at local and national level in service delivery and managing clients.

Andy said: “We now have a formidable team; we believe it to be the largest resident Employee Benefits team presence in the North East. Our knowledge and experience in this sector is second to none. We are very much a local team, fully invested in the area, with us all living and working locally and therefore fully aware of local business dynamics.

“With that in mind, we’re ideally placed to support businesses across the North East in delivering programmes that reap benefits for organisations, and their workforces.”

Salary exchange

One of the services that’s most in demand is salary exchange for employee pension schemes. After all, next to salary, pension is often a business’s largest workforce spend.

Since the advent of auto-enrolment, many employers have – with government approval – used salary exchange together with the workplace pension scheme.

Here, an employer pays the employees’ pension contribution into a workplace pension in exchange for the employees accepting a reduction in gross salary for the same amount. Both reduce their national insurance contributions and employees can seek tax relief at their highest marginal rate without the need to correspond with HMRC – although it should be noted that this is not suitable for all and should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

The team also looks at pensions’ governance, auto-enrolment compliance and support with IR35 legislation, which is set to change this year.

Group risk

One area where the idiom ‘the devil’s in the detail’ rings especially true is group risk policies, such as life assurance, income protection or critical illness cover.

Here, a gap in cover can have a significant impact on a business as well as an employee’s retirement planning.

The team minimises risk with services including policy design, implementation and audit as well as ongoing management support.

Health and wellbeing

The Labour Force Survey from the Health and Safety Executive says an estimated 28.2 million working days were lost due to work-related ill health and non-fatal workplace injuries in 2018/20193. So, taking steps to reduce the impact of sickness on employees and businesses makes sense.

From an employer’s perspective, private healthcare provision as part of an employee benefits package is often seen as a gold star benefit: not only does it reduce employee absences, it’s well above and beyond an employer’s duty of care – and there’s the added bonus of extending this benefit to family members too.

Whether on their own or as part of a package, private medical insurance, dental, health cash plans, and employee assistance, significantly enhance any employee benefits package.

Of course, there’s plenty of choice out there, so AEB’s focus is on understanding what each client needs, and finding an option that’s ideally suited. Services include needs analysis and policy placement, policy audit, management, and support and market reviews

Benefit software

Andy adds a great way of engaging with the workforce is providing them the access to and information about their benefits package, when they need it.

To that end, implementing an employee benefits software platform not only allows businesses to monitor their expenses, but employees can also view and alter the benefits they want – on a smartphone or tablet – to suit their own circumstances.

Engagement – the catalyst for success

And behind every employee benefits programme, Andy says, is a well planned and executed education and engagement plan.

He said: “An employer can have the best benefits package in the world, but how much value does it have if employees are unaware and unappreciative?

“Employee engagement can be catered for in a multitude of ways, whether it’s one-to-one, part of a group session, a presentation or via the written word. Regardless of the delivery medium, the key message has to be consistently delivered, and it has to be the same: understanding leads to appreciation, which aids retention and motivation.”