Is flexible working the new employee benefit?

Is flexible working the new employee benefit?

Traditionally, employee benefits were medical aid and pension fund contributions. This has evolved as people’s needs and the work landscape changed. Now, as flexible working is fast becoming the norm around the world, should employers consider implementing flexible working as an employee benefit?

 

Increased demand for flexible working

According to the 2018 Global Talent Trends report, 51% of employees wish their company offered more flexible work opportunities.

As a response to this increased demand, employers worldwide are starting to offer flexible work as a perk. A study done by LinkedIn indicated that there has been a 78% increase in job posts that offer some sort of flexibility since 2016 (see figure below). It is not just SMEs that offer flexibility, large corporates like Investec and EY have implemented flexible work policies. There is an acknowledgement that flexible working encourages gender diversity within the work-place, assisting in closing the gender-gap in senior management. 

Source: LinkedIn

This substantial increase in demand for flexible working can be attributed to a number of factors. Advances in technology, like video conferencing and shared online working spaces, have made it possible for more job types to be done flexibly. Other factors include urbanisation which increases the traffic congestion on the roads and the challenging economic times that has resulted in both parents having to work and integrate household duties.

Even though flexible working might not be considered as an official employee benefit, it is proving to be a perk which is fast becoming the norm in the employment landscape of the future of work. Keeping in mind that not all jobs can be done on a flexible basis and employers should only offer the perk as it suits the role. Here are 15 Top flexible jobs in South Africa. 

 

What are employee benefits, and how have they changed recently?

According to the Business Dictionary, employee benefits are indirect or non-cash compensation ‘paid’ to an employee. Some of these employee benefits are required by law, for example, UIF contributions and statutory mandated leave days. Others, like medical aid and pension fund contributions, are not required by law. Deciding on whether or not to provide these benefits is up to how management wants to structure their compensation packages. These traditional forms of employee benefits make sense, particularly when an employee remains with a company for many years.

However, as the work landscape is changing globally and in South Africa, employees tend to change jobs more often, and the need for traditional employee benefits has decreased as employees self insure and invest. Employers, however,  still need to find ways of attracting and retaining top skills in this ever-changing landscape. More companies have now started to make use of employee perks instead of or in addition to traditional benefits. 

 

Employee benefits vs perks

Even though there is no clear distinction between employee benefits and employee perks, the table below gives a better understanding of what perks versus benefits might be.

 

Benefits Perks
Medical aid Company car
Retirement contributions Tuition reimbursement
Paid time off Free food
Maternity / Paternity leave Paid time off to volunteer 
Life insurance Flexible work hours

Source: Your ERC

Employee benefits are included in the employment contract and employers should be aware that they can be in contravention of the labour law if they interfere with the provision of the stated benefits or provide them unfairly to certain employees and not to others. This article explains the implications of interfering with employee benefits. 

Perks, on the other hand, are less structured and employers can be creative with what they offer. For example, stock purchase plans or a free gym membership, see other examples here.

Keep in mind that the perk you offer has to attract and retain the talent and skills required, and for that reason, you need to consider what perks your employees will value. One of the perks skilled employees are increasingly seeking out as a benefit is flexible working environments. 

Flexibility is a wide term that can be daunting to an employer looking to implement flexible ways of working. For ideas on how best to do this read this article >> Implementing flexible working practices: Organisational factors.


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