The Employee Benefits That Aren't Really Benefits At All

Think about the last time you were browsing job adverts for a second...

We’d bet you a couple of quid that each and every one of them will have, more or less, the same type of tried and trusted format.

A savvy introduction designed to grab your attention, some confident blurb about the company (all about how much it’s growing, its’ ongoing success or its’ growing, highly motivated team… Yawn…) and an overview of the main duties and tasks you’d undertake. So much, so standard.

It’s the bits after these sections that should be seizing your interest however, as the next section is often what will really set the stall out for the prospective employer. It’ll all be about what really stands them apart from the rest – and that’s the range of employee benefits they’ll offer.

But it’s here where things can often become a little bit, well, disappointing…


When it comes to workplace benefits, it seems that, more often than not, businesses are including ‘standard fit’ items as workplace benefits or perks to simply dress up their jobs to attract the best talent.

Take annual leave for example.

The importance of taking leave from your work shouldn’t be underestimated. It can help to prevent you from burning out both physically and mentally, whilst it can also help you manage workplace stress more effectively.

With this in mind, it would be fair to say that having your mandatory 28 days of paid holiday a year should be seen as a necessity, rather than a perk or benefit, right?

This statement becomes all the more pertinent when you consider that a good work-life balance is one of the driving forces behind better staff retention; with a recent survey by insurance company Aviva revealing that 44% of employees stated a good work-life balance was a key reason for them staying with their current employers.

So, why do many businesses still list their ‘generous’ annual leave allowances as a staff benefit or a perk of working for the company?

Surely, paid leave should be considered a necessity to the company’s culture and intrinsic to a considered and measured approach to staff wellbeing?


Another ‘perk’ that is often lauded in job descriptions is the working environment. And to be fair, you can understand why this might be considered a benefit of working for a particular business; especially if you’re working for the ASOS’s and Dr Martens of this world where traditional office environments have been replaced by indoor gardens and break-out areas that are more a space odyssey than bland space.

But a great work environment shouldn’t be seen as a staff benefit. In fact, it’s absolutely critical to successful positive company cultures – so why is it often classed as a perk or staff benefit?

Of course, not every business can afford to start kitting out their offices with Turner Prize-winning art installations, self-service cider taps and indoor gardens (and we wouldn’t recommend it, either!); but having a work environment that gets the best out of people shouldn’t be seen as an additional perk or something an employee should feel grateful for having.

And after all, shouldn’t a pleasant work environment be a given for everyone, anyway?

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The morning and evening commutes to a place of work may be part and parcel work, but where people choose to commute to and from does play a huge part in attracting the best talent and retaining them, too.

However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that where you’re based is a benefit to staff. And it really doesn’t matter how lovely the surrounding area is, how parking on-site is provided or how close you are to a train station or major road – employees are savvy and expect a lot more from their employees than the prospect of a space in the car park every morning to keep them engaged!


When you were looking for your next career move, did you want to move to a job and stay in that job indefinitely without any prospect of progression or promotion? Thought not! But that doesn’t stop many businesses classing training and progression as a staff benefit when advertising their positions.

Whilst highlighting the future career opportunities your business can offer potential staff is of course a good thing, classing them as a staff benefit is a little misguided as having a strong learning culture and a workplace that encourages career progression is vital to both engagement and retention.

Career progression and training for stepping up the career ladder is something employees come to expect as part of their roles, not something that they should be hunting out for or only getting as a perk of the job.


When you’re thinking about the benefits you should offer your staff, you need to look beyond the more literal definitions of the stuff you should really be shouting about.

Virtually every business in the world will offer some sort of employee benefits programme; but choosing the right ones for your current employees that will also stand out to prospective employees, and retain your best ones for longer are the types of staff benefits that make a real difference to everyone’s quality of life.

But what do we mean by that exactly?

Well, look at it this way. If you already offer a competitive amount of paid annual leave, make it easier for your staff to get even more precious free time with annual leave buy-back schemes.

Are your wages also competitive for your industry? Then why not introduce employee discount schemes? These can give your employees access to savings in virtually any area of their day-to-day lives and over the course of a year, the savings can really add up. Now that’s a real benefit worth screaming from the rooftops!

Finally, traveling to a place of work may be unavoidable for many, but making it easier, cheaper and more enjoyable for staff can make a heck of a difference to their lives.

Cycle-to-Work schemes, discounted rail season tickets or access to ultra-low emission cars are just some of benefits that will not only add value to the employment experience, but also help build a tangible connection between you and your most valuable assets: your staff.


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