Written by
Chris Morgan

Published
25 May 2017

It's about family benefits, not just employee benefits

25 May 2017 • by Chris Morgan

When we think workplace benefits, we think employee benefits. But these benefits shouldn’t just stop at the employee. Employers need to take a more holistic approach, using employee benefits as a platform to provide for the whole family, not just the employee.

This is already commonplace with some benefits, such as dental and private medical insurance, each typically offering some sort of family cover to employees using a flexible and voluntary selection platform. However, this doesn't commonly extend to benefits such as life insurance and critical illness cover, which is typically only offered to the employee.

Yet the workplace can have a very strong role to play in distributing financial protection products that can cover the whole family. Products that families may not otherwise have access to, which help to provide important financial resilience.

Of course, where family benefits are offered, these need to be suitable for as many families as possible. With more and more couples living together who are not married or in a civil partnership, who have dependents and a mortgage, modern living is causing a change in the way financial benefits are set up.

Fortunately, products are changing to meet the demands of modern living, and employers should make sure these are included in their family benefits programme. Critical illness cover as an example, can now be extended to cover cohabitating partners and children from date of birth. 

Business benefits

Of course, it’s not just the employee and their family who will benefit, employers and their businesses will also reap rewards from being a more holistic workplace benefit provider.

By providing employees with the option to cover their family and showing a paternal side as an employer, those families are then more likely to become advocates for the company and its cause. Of course, this is good for retention. Where an employee’s spouse or child is covered under a life or critical illness product for example, they are likely to think twice about leaving the company due to the value of such benefits.

What’s more, in a crowded recruitment market, providing family benefits is likely to attract the best talent, standing a business ahead of their competitors when it comes to recruiting new people into the business.

It's cost effective

Through a voluntary scheme, employers simply provide their people with the option to extend cover to their family at the employee’s own cost. As it is arranged through a group scheme, cover will normally be cheaper for employees than buying their own individual policy from the high street.

Premiums are typically collected via payroll, so it’s simple and convenient for employees, although they will not benefit from income tax and national insurance savings, due to a recent change in legislation.

While the cost of the insurance is paid for by the employee in this case, employers will still need to make sure they have an online benefit platform to administer benefit selections, and to communicate the benefits to employees. This will require some investment but there are now many more options available, suited to a range of budgets.

Providing employees with choice allows them to choose the benefits which best suit their needs and the needs of their family. This flexibility improves employee engagement, and the higher the engagement the more effective and worthwhile the programme will be for the employer.  

In a nutshell

Employee benefits go beyond just the employee. Family benefits matter too. Therefore, employers have the opportunity to become facilitators for family benefits by providing flexible and voluntary platforms where employees can opt in to cover their spouse and children.

If an online benefits platform is already in place, then at no extra cost to the employer, it’s a win-win situation where they can provide extra value to their employees’ and their families, while gaining from higher staff retention rates and being able to attract the best talent for their business.