When you’re job searching, how often do you look at the list of benefits a company can offer you, as opposed to the requirements you’re asked to meet?
All too often, we forget that employee benefits should be important incentives, helping to make our lives easier or more comfortable in the long run, and helping us to decide between similar job vacancies.
Here are three of the current trends in workplace benefits that you need to know about.
- Carers in the workforce are finally recognised
Many employers have acknowledged that, no matter how diverse their employees may be in terms of age, bereavement or illness can strike a family at any time. The UK has an ageing population and offers patchy provision of elderly care, so young or middle-aged workers are left to support their older relatives.
In fact, the Carers Charity reports that over 2.1 million UK adults become carers every year. By 2030, this figure is expected to rise to 3.4 million UK adults – an increase of 60%.
Following results of a survey it commissioned into working-age carers, which revealed almost a million workers are hiding their carer responsibilities from employers, the insurance company Aviva created a new carers policy.
This will include up to 35 hours’ paid leave for planned events such as hospital appointments, plus up to 35 hours’ paid leave for emergencies, per holiday year. Aviva also increased bereavement leave from 35 to 70 hours. We can only hope other employers follow their lead.
- Shared parental leave still doesn’t appeal to working fathers
Shared parental leave came into law in 2015, offering parents the chance to split 50 weeks’ leave (37 of those paid) between themselves. Yet only 1% of new parents use shared parental leave, according to research by law firm EMW, despite leave being available to divide between the baby’s first year – useful if you don’t want to take those 50 weeks consecutively.
But what’s putting new fathers off the shared parental leave scheme? EMW cited the ‘cultural stigma of men taking lengthy amounts of time off work to care for their children’. Of course, the UK’s gender pay gap of 18% between men and women could be another factor: if the father earns more than the mother, a couple would want the higher earner back in the workforce.
Major law firms, such as Morrison & Foerster, have increased their paid maternity and paternity packages to support workers, but we need more initiatives like this to reassure new parents. Until the stigma for dads is reduced, and the gender pay gap likewise, it’s unlikely we will see shared parental leave become more popular.
- Tech firms continue to offer weird and wonderful benefits – with a catch
Mashable reported earlier this year on some of the strangest workplace benefits in the technology sector. One of its highlights was the offer of IVF or egg-freezing said to be available at Amazon, Facebook, Google, Intel, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Spotify, and Wayfair.
Meanwhile, sleep pods are increasingly popping up in technology and marketing offices – on the surface, this re-energises staff and could improve productivity. But look deeper and you’ll realise these pod areas or closed-off rooms encourage power naps to potentially compensate for long and demanding working hours. Back in 2014, the Guardian warned that some of these gimmicks ‘enable the new culture of low-level presenteeism’.
Look carefully at the quirkier benefits mentioned in a workplace. Are they helping you have a healthier work-life balance, or could they be encouraging you to put in extra hours on top of an already long working week? If it helps, write a pros and cons list to evaluate each benefit.
With workplace benefits becoming prominent in job descriptions, and firms competing to attract the best candidates with the latest perks, it pays to know what the trends are, to better prepare yourself for finding your dream role.