Caught in the 'desk divide'

Sep 18 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Employers have responded to the uncertainty in the UK economy by cutting staff benefits and offering short-term cash incentives instead - bonuses are now the fastest growing work perk, according to new research.

Figures gathered by from Virgin Money. Found that the number of employers offering pensions, flexi-time, life and health insurance and paternity leave has fallen in the last twelve months, while bonuses have increased by 16 per cent.

But the ‘Desk Divide‘ – the gap between the what staff want in their benefits package and what they actually get offered - remains huge.

Almost nine out of ten for example, want a pension - a figure echoed by a survey earlier this month by youatwork. But, says Virgin Money, only four out of ten employers provide one.

Health insurance is the other top priority for employees, something that three-quarters of staff would like to receive. But only one in five employers are prepared to oblige.

The picture is the same with workplaces crèches - more than four out of ten employees want them, but a mere three per cent of employers actually provide them.

Given these disparities, it comes as no surprise to discover that half of all bosses admit that they don’t consult with staff on benefits.

Virgin Money’s Gordon Maw said: "It seems that with the uncertainty around the economy in the last twelve months, employers have shifted their focus to incentive-based benefits and it’s worrying that the number offering pensions has fallen.

"Pensions have topped the list of workers’ priorities in our survey every year but less than half - 42 per cent - of UK employees actually have a company pension. The fact that employers have found it harder to provide a quality workplace pension in the last twelve months, seems only to have reinforced employees attitudes to this most valued benefit."