Companies in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) are increasingly offering their employees flexible benefits, concludes a new research from consulting firm Mercer. Key reasons for the rising popularity of flexible benefits include among others remaining competitive in the labor market and enhancing employee engagement.
In the ‘EMEA Employee Choice in Benefits Survey 2014’, Mercer analysed the extent to which preferences of employees play a role in the health and benefits programs of organisations. More than 600 employers in 17 countries across EMEA participated in the survey.
The results shows that currently more than half of the companies (53%) offer (some form of) flexible benefits to their employees. Looking ahead, then the trend is likely to accelerate, forecasts Mercer, as 79% of the respondents firms states that they have plans to adopt choice and voluntary benefits in the coming two years.
“There’s a growing trend of employers offering employees a greater say in selecting benefits that are most important to the individual,” says Damon Robinson, a senior associate in Mercer’s Health & Benefits business in the UK. “We expect this wave to continue as more companies discover that they can implement choice at little or no additional cost and are safe in the knowledge that their employees will be highly satisfied with the greater range of benefit options.”
Western Europe at the forefront
The research in addition shows that of the three continents studied, Western Europe leads the pack in terms of flexible and/or voluntary benefits*. 29% of the Western European companies offer flexible benefits, while 31% offer voluntary benefits. In comparison, in the Middle East the sum of both these categories amounts to 32% - roughly half of the score of the frontrunners.
Global vs Local
The HR consultants also looked at what type of approach companies follow when implementing flexible benefits. The results reveal that, for the multinationals in the dataset (i.e. operations in more than 1 country), two-thirds opts for a local approach. Only 6% admits to having a global template rolled out across all territories.
* Flexible benefits include employer-paid benefits, in which employees can exchange current benefits for others that better fit their needs. Voluntary benefits schemes allow employees to use their own money to purchase additional benefits, often at a discount due to collective purchasing power.