Employees are taking over the world of benefits

Andy Reason

By Scott Wright

ALMOST two years into a grueling crisis that has upended expectations of everyday life, it’s perhaps unsurprising to hear that job seekers are looking for a little more than before from job seekers. potential employers.

Andy Eason, head of Aberdeen-based Acumen Employee Benefits, said salary was no longer the only factor applicants consider when considering job offers.

His company, which helps companies expand and promote the benefits they offer to employees, is seeing growing demand for its services as people increasingly seek out packages that incorporate health, wellness and environmental commitments.

And, with some sectors struggling to attract staff in the aftermath of the pandemic, Mr Eason said candidates are increasingly expecting a fuller range of benefits from potential employers.

“Benefits are such an important part of it,” Mr. Eason said. “We’ve been talking for years and years about the importance of benefits. It supports retention, it supports recruitment.

“Employees will be looking for rich benefits. In many cases, especially the higher paying positions, [people] will expect this. And if they don’t get it, they will seek increased pay… [which] is a fairly inexpensive way to do it. If you have the wealth of benefits to begin with, you retain people and therefore more profitably. »

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Mr Eason, who has worked in the benefits field for more than 30 years, said there had recently been a “boost” in terms of the scope of benefits now on offer.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the pressures of the pandemic, benefits that can support employee well-being, whether mental and physical or financial, are currently at the top of the list.

“There are lots of different opportunities for employers to use tools they’re already paying for but aren’t aware of,” he said.

“If you take a traditional life insurance policy that many employers will provide to their staff, it’s perfectly conceivable that employees would have access to a 24/7 virtual GP, second medical opinions , mental disorders health support, fitness programs and dietary support.

“These are things that have really accelerated in the last 24 to 36 months and are becoming pretty much standard fare as value-added benefits in traditional benefits.”

He added: “If you are able to leverage what you have and communicate with employees, all of a sudden employees start to notice, not only the additions, but also a greater appreciation for the things that are extremely important – the pension, the life insurance, whatever else.”

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Recently, there has also been a focus on electric vehicles, which staff can now access more tax-efficiently through “salary swapping”.

“That’s one of the potentially true, win-win benefits,” Mr. Eason said.

“The Business can save money and improve its carbon footprint by encouraging employees to drive in a more environmentally friendly way [vehicles]. But employees are finally getting electric vehicles at a very affordable price. This legislation changed in April 2020. Because we were right in the middle of the pandemic, this is something that never really progressed at the rate we thought. It is now.”

Another upcoming area of ​​focus is the impending increase in national insurance contributions for employers and employees, which will rise by 1.25 percentage points from April 6. Mr. Eason explained that the impact on both employer and employee can be offset by simply adjusting the way pension contributions are levied.

“However you peel it, it’s an added cost to the employer,” Eason said of the NI dues increase. “It’s an addition to the bottom line and hurts the employee’s take home pay. There are ways to mitigate that and we help a lot of employers with that.

“It is quite frightening to see the number of employers who have no idea of ​​the ability to save this money, both from their point of view and that of the employees, simply by changing the basis for deducting pensions .”

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He added, “It’s really about giving up income instead of non-cash income.”

Acumen Employee Benefits is part of the Acumen Financial Planning group, which was established approximately 20 years ago.

Mr. Eason joined in establishing the benefits business about three years ago. He brought with him a very experienced team that he had worked with before, and the division now employs around 50 people.

Although Acumen works with companies in a wide range of sectors, many of them are related to the oil and gas sector. Mr Eason said small and medium-sized businesses are his particular “sweet-spot”.

“That’s probably where we can add the most value and where we differentiate ourselves a bit from the major benefits consultancies,” he said. “That’s where we see our position in the market. We are very bespoke.

“We are not a transactional organization.”

Questions and answers

Which countries did you most enjoy traveling to, for business or leisure, and why?
Even though my career hasn’t given me many opportunities to international travel, I previously spent five consecutive weeks supporting a client with employee presentations and one-on-one interviews following an acquisition – the location was multiple oil rigs in the North Sea. For a land lover in the office, this was a fantastic experience. For recreation, it’s a mix between the Maldives and the Florida Disney experience – unrivaled but equally amazing.

When you were a child, what was your ideal job? Why did he call?
An excavator driver – I think my love for Tonka Toys had a lot to do with it.

What was your biggest break in business?
Very early in my career
I was offered the opportunity to take up a trainee consultant position in Aberdeen, which meant uprooting and moving north. It gave me the career that I have
had and that’s also where I met my wife.

What was your worst moment in business?
The loss of one of the people who gave me my biggest break in business, Mike Reid. He gave me the opportunity and for many years, while remaining colleagues, we became
a very good friend.
It left a big void professionally and personally.

Who do you admire the most and why?
Sir Alex Ferguson. Anyone who has the success they have and who is so revered by those they lead deserves the greatest admiration.
What book are you reading and what music are you listening?
Sir Billy Connolly’s Autobiography Windswept And Interesting. I usually gravitate to fiction, but this is a valid exception.
My music playlists are eclectic, but my go-to list is my 90s list full of Oasis, The Stone Roses, The Charlatans, Carter USM, etc.

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Richard V. Johnson