What are the top six employee benefit trends in the legal sector in 2023?



20 January 2023

Prioritising employee mental health, improving wellbeing and engagement and focusing on people risk will be top trends in the legal sector this year, says Robbie Weston, Executive Director, Asset Management and Legal, at Howden Employee Benefits and Wellbeing.

With the current economic uncertainty, Weston predicts a slowing down of the recruitment market and fewer job moves within the sector, shifting it away from being such an employee-driven market. Whereas last year, Robert Walters Group1 warned law firms faced a “ticking time-bomb of pressure” in the war for talent, there is a sense that the tide is turning. There are likely to be fewer hires and less staff turnover. We expect many employees will remain with their current employer taking the view, it’s ‘better the devil you know’.

However, he cautions against complacency. Instead, he believes it is the ideal time for firms to redouble their efforts to improve communication and engage with staff to build long-term loyalty, so employees are happy, productive and remain loyal when the economy picks up again.  

While salary will continue to be important within the sector, employees’ are increasingly looking for the overall experience of working for a firm and that includes comprehensive benefits, support for their wellbeing and a positive work culture where they can thrive.

Weston sets out his top recommendations for law firms for the year ahead.

1. Review your employee benefits.

Review your existing employee benefits programme to ensure it continues to meet the needs of your business and employees. This includes ensuring that you have appropriate wellbeing support in place. Mental health continues to be high on the agenda for the sector and so it is essential that employers implement effective tools to help employees look after their mental wellbeing, especially at a time when the cost of living crisis is likely to bring added pressures and stress for employees.

It’s also important to consider whether your benefits fit with your wider business goals and beliefs. For examples, do your benefits meet the ESG objectives? Do they reflect your approach to diversity and inclusion? Talk to staff to see what they value and identify any gaps within your current offering.

Benefits such as, Private Medical Insurance, Health Cash Plans and Dental Cover will continue to be highly valued - particularly at a time where NHS waiting times have hit an all-time high - and can help employees to access treatment faster and return to work more quickly. We also expect employees to demand more benefits which reflect their personal environmental and ethical beliefs including ethical pension fund options, green car and cycle-to-work schemes.

2. Promote your employee benefits regularly.

Employee benefits are often a firm’s best kept secret which means they can be undervalued and under-used. So we expect to see a renewed focus on the communication of benefits to ensure employees know about the benefits on offer, they value them and know how to access them when needed.

The post-pandemic workplace has changed the ways that firms communicate with their people. Implementing a multi-channel communications strategy, which includes the right mix of digital, in person and traditional communication methods, can help to reach the entire workforce and bring benefits to life, ensuring that firms maximise their benefits spend. And boosting engagement and appreciation of the benefits provided too.   

3. Prioritise employee mental health.

Mental health is an ongoing issue for the sector. Firms are under pressure to maximise fee-earning time and increase billable hours. However, this also brings the risk of burnout and poor workplace wellbeing.  

Many firms will be looking to create a more supportive culture that proactively looks after employees’ mental health as this will aid staff retention and attraction. From creating specific mental health plans, to training mental health first aiders, offering wellbeing apps and encouraging conversation about mental health related issues within the workplace– there are many actions that can be taken.

4. Prioritise wellbeing

A key part of any good working culture is having a happy and healthy workforce and employee wellbeing will continue to be a high priority for firms this year. In 2023, we expect to see more firms particularly focusing on supporting employees’ mental and financial wellbeing.

Some law firms have already implemented a wellbeing strategy and more plan to do so in 2023. An effective strategy will identify the key wellbeing needs of employees and put in place the right solutions to help. There isn’t a one size fits all solution so it’s advisable to work with your benefits consultant to pinpoint the main aspects of wellbeing that need to be addressed and create a plan which directs spend in the most effective way.

5. Help staff through the cost-of-living crisis.

Firms will also need to support staff who face additional pressures due to the cost-of-living crisis. Younger employees who won’t have experienced a recession before are particularly likely to benefit from this support.

Offering access to services such as financial education programmes, online tools, discount platforms and financial advice are all likely to be welcomed in helping employees take control of their finances.

Research shows the current crisis is impacting business productivity and engagement. According to The Financial Capability Strategy for the UK: 1 in 4 workers have lost sleep over money worries, over half say that current financial worries stop them from performing at their best and almost half (46%) say that financial worries have impacted their relationship with their manager2.

Howden has launched a guide to help employers support their staff through the cost of living crisis - To download the full guide please go to: www.howdengroup.com/uk-en/Cost-of-living-crisis-an-employers-guide

6. Focus on People Risk

We expect to see an increased focus on people risk in 2023. By this we mean, firms will look at all aspects of risk together rather than in isolation.

This involves recognising human error as one of the biggest risks to a law firm. Taking a proactive approach to health and wellbeing, supporting a healthy work/life balance and having robust policies and processes in place can help firms to reduce risks and in turn, limit Professional Indemnity (PI) claims and Errors & Omissions. Increasingly, we’re seeing PI insurers want to understand how firms are supporting their employees’ health & wellbeing as part of the underwriting process.

HR teams are often the first line of defence in spotting issues and identifying potential issues within the workforce. We expect to see HR to have a bigger role to play in helping firms manage their overall approach to risk.

For more information, please visit: www.howdengroup.co.uk



Robbie Weston - Director of Asset Management & Legal

Robbie is an experienced Employee Benefits specialist and leads our proposition in the Asset Management and Legal sectors.