2022 is the time for the next generation of benefits - top predictions for the year ahead



04 January 2022

This year, we expect to see the start of a once-in-a-generation shift in benefits and wellbeing, as many employers completely reassess their programmes in response to the ongoing pandemic and the economic and people challenges that had created. 

The renewed focus on benefits and wellbeing was highlighted in recent research from Group Risk Development (GRiD)i who found that 73% of employers said the pandemic will lead to long-term changes in how they support the health and wellbeing of their staff. 

This support includes more checking in with staff (71%), providing improved communication (68%), improved engagement and the use of available support (65%) and increased mental health support (64%).

The report also reveals employers expect an increase in support for physical wellbeing (57%), social wellbeing (54%), financial wellbeing (52%), improving the range of choice within benefits (49%) and providing support for employees’ dependants (48%).

We’re seeing companies reviewing their benefits on a scale we haven’t seen for a long time. The pandemic has led to significant changes in business focus and new pressures, so many see it as an opportune time to ensure their benefits are aligned to their business goals.

A key driver of change is the economic uncertainty and labour shortages. Recruitment and retention pressures are at their highest for a long time, so companies need to build a benefits programme that clearly appeals to employees and helps them stand out as an employer of choice. 

Benefit and wellbeing trends in 2022

Other notable trends we expect to see will be companies filling in gaps where employees weren’t previously provided with cover, as they seek to create more equitable and inclusive benefits. This includes extending health and protection benefits to all staff, as employers recognise the importance of providing access to healthcare, irrespective of someone’s seniority or length of service.

This great benefits review is also aligning to the cultural shift we are seeing in the workplace, as employers seek to achieve their Diversity and Inclusion and Environmental Social and Governance goals.  From pensions to gender-specific health programmes, employers will be re-thinking their benefits in terms of sustainability, equality, and inclusivity.

Changes are afoot in pensions too where we’re starting to see more companies looking at funding suitability and making the case for enhancing employer contributions. Such a review is long-overdue, as retirement adequacy has been far from ideal for over 20 years. With increased investment in pensions, there will also be an increased focus on financial education and retirement planning.

A final prediction for 2022 is that employee wellbeing will reach new levels.  Pre-pandemic, companies had started to focus on wellbeing, but it was still in its infancy in terms of approach and solutions. This is set to change in 2022.

According to Bupa’s Global Executive Wellbeing Index 2021ii, published in September 2021, UK business leaders are predicted to increase spend on employee mental wellbeing by 18% in the coming year, amongst the highest rates in the world-wide study. 

The market for wellbeing has well and truly grown up. We will see “wellbeing 2.0”, as companies centralise their wellbeing initiatives into more mature and technology-enabled strategies. And, with so many wellbeing services and initiatives provided by most employers nowadays, rationalising into one approach will be key to driving engagement and ensuring employees utilise the services available and relevant to them.

Given the major upheaval we have all experienced and the ongoing pressure on businesses, 2022 presents a real opportunity for employers to rethink their approach to benefits and wellbeing and finally replace the legacy models of the past 20 years with an offer fit for the future.

By Matthew Gregson, Executive Director UK Corporate, Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing

i https://healthcareandprotection.com/grid-employers-expect-to-increase-health-and-wellbeing-support-for-staff/
ii https://www.bupa.com/news/press-releases/2021/uk-leaders-boost-employee-wellbeing