The ultimate guide to employee benefits

A quick summary:

  • What are employee benefits?
  • What are statutory employee benefits in the UK?
  • Why offer employee benefits?
  • Best employee benefits to offer
  • The wrong way to offer employee benefits packages
  • 3 companies leading the way for staff benefits
  • Our final thoughts on staff benefits

In the past few years, employee benefits have been turned upside down, and possibly for the best. Forward-thinking companies have begun to embrace healthier staff benefits and do away with meaningless, impractical perks.

On reflection, it seems the COVID-19 pandemic has been pivotal in this transformation of healthier, happier staff benefits. This is evident in the attitudes towards the workplace and the rise of certain perks that have blown up in popularity.

With millions experiencing a mix of stress, anxiety, and depression, conversations on mental were brought to the surface in offices and on zoom calls across the UK. These very topics that had an air of stigma were slowly becoming more acceptable.  

But what changed? Well, great leaders listened and began to refine the role of the workplace and how health and wellbeing fit into the puzzle.

Fast forward to today and there’s an ever-rising demand for better health and wellbeing benefits. More and more of us want very specific staff benefits that can improve our lives — and rightly so.

Whether it’s financial wellbeing support, family-oriented perks, parental benefits, or learning and development incentives, society's shifting priorities make for a brighter future.

In this guide, we’re diving into what are employee benefits. We’ll also explore popular staff benefits to offer and discuss companies that are at the top of the game when it comes to incentivising their workforce.

Three employees working at their desk together
What are employee benefits?

What are employee benefits?

The best place to start with any guide is a definition! So, what are employee benefits? The CIPD defines staff benefits as “non-cash provisions within the rewards package.”

Cambridge Dictionary defines employee benefits as “an advantage such as a pension plan, health insurance, or a car, that a company offers to employees in addition to their pay.”

Both definitions are very much correct, and it’s often the case that employee benefits packages support a few things in the workplace…

  1. Motivating employees to accomplish organisational goals
  2. The desire to take care of workplace wellbeing
  3. Increasing engagement and job satisfaction
  4. Recruiting and retaining top talent

This list goes on, of course. Leaders achieve these depending on the strength of their employee benefits packages and to what degree they adopt a people-first approach to business.

In a nutshell however, the answer to “what are employee benefits?” is simple. It’s the incentives that add value to a position within a company. It’s a group of perks that support the lives of staff both in and outside of the workplace.

While it sounds like a brighter future is on the horizon for staff benefits, the past 100 years has seen incentives for employees continuously revolutionise how we work.

At the turn of the 20th century, benefits for the general population were introduced by the state, including sick pay, pensions, unemployment insurance, along with the National Health Service.

Fast-forward to the 1970s, and the efforts to control pay growth saw companies create generous benefits provisions to support their employees.

In the 80s, and ever since, the tax regime around employee benefits has tightened, which has caused limited appeal of certain benefits over cash.

In the present workplace, businesses have begun to take a more individualistic approach to how they reward their employees.

What’s more, the COVID-19 pandemic drove even more pressure on employers to support healthcare benefits and adequate sick pay.  

This brief history of staff benefits simply scratches the surface of how they have revolutionised the workplace and the ever-changing demands of employers by society.

It’s safe to say, however, that employee benefits packages are changing and for the better. There was a time when these initiatives to support healthier and happier employees simply didn’t exist.

What are statutory benefits in the UK?

Now that we’ve answered the above, let’s look at what are statutory benefits. Put simply, these are staff benefits required by law, i.e mandatory from employers.

This includes things like holiday entitlement, sick pay, parental leave, pensions and so on. As we explored above, some of these statutory benefits evolved in the 20th century and create much fairer working conditions for millions of people.

While statutory benefits are exactly what they say, beneficial, most companies in the present workplace add additional perks on top — gym memberships, free lunches, better flexible working arrangements and more.

Why offer employee benefits?

Now, before we move on to the best employee benefits to offer your team, let’s look at a common question… why offer employee benefits?

By now, this should be a no-brainer, but if you need a refresher, let us help! Your organisation should offer employee benefits because your competitors do.

In the modern workplace, it’s unavoidable to compete with organisations for great talent, and a high salary alone, won’t be enough.

People are deciding on their next career move based on the wider employee experience; does the culture fit their liking? Are there adequate staff benefits?

To rely on an above-average salary will see you lose out on top talent, but also struggle to retain them too.

That’s exactly why employers must leverage staff benefits to create healthier, happier organisations.

A woman doing a yoga pose on her balcony
Best employee benefits to consider

Best employee benefits to offer your team

As we’ve established, employee benefits packages are changing, and people are demanding better work-life balance. Below, we’ve looked into five of the most popular staff benefits of the present and near future.

Health and wellbeing benefits

We’ve said before and we’ll say it again, society is gradually becoming more health-conscious. This must be reflected in employee benefits packages if companies are to compete for talent.

To impress candidates, staff benefits must accommodate health and wellbeing offerings. This includes counselling and therapy, fitness memberships, access to nutrition products and more.

Millennials are spending around £1,300 each year on health supplements, workout clothing, gym and fitness memberships and healthy meal plans. It’s data like this that should encourage leaders to future-proof their staff benefits.

As an employee wellbeing platform, we’ve seen exponential growth in the way of health and wellbeing benefits.

In a LinkedIn poll, Heka found that of 284 HR professionals, 93% saw health and wellbeing to be an important matter in business.

Health and wellbeing benefits stats from Heka

It’s statistics like this that demonstrate the changing attitudes of HR teams. As a society, we’re quickly approaching a point where a lack of health and wellbeing benefits will be nothing short of detrimental to business growth and success.

Learning and development incentives

Learning and development are essential for employee benefits packages — people need purpose in their working lives, and purpose comes with progression.

Great leaders understand that to motivate employees, they must lay out a direction for the future. Without this, employees become disengaged and uninterested.

Whether it’s reimbursing tuition fees, or upskilling your employees with online courses, you must support your team with these kinds of staff benefits.

Not so long ago, learning and development were scarce in staff benefits, yet with the likes of Udemy, Codecademy, and Skillshare, the barrier to entry into education for employees is easier than ever.

In 2020, 42% of organisations improved their re-skilling efforts after the COVID-19 outbreak, which shows the demand for access to education remains high.

Not only are employees a lot more professionally equipped to take on new responsibilities at work, but 81% say that re-skilling has boosted their productivity at work.

Financial wellbeing support

Financial wellbeing is fastly dominating employee benefits packages of thousands of forward-thinking companies.

As it turns out, people are in desperate need of better financial understanding, especially as the recession takes shape and the cost of living crisis deteriorates.

The rise of ‘buy now, pay later’ schemes are burdening people with financial worries that ultimately impact their happiness.

What’s more, financial wellbeing is consequential for workplace performance, job satisfaction and general engagement. This should worry leaders enough to take action and help their employees lead financially healthier lives.

By offering financial wellbeing support as part of staff benefits, employers may see improvements in the company’s bottom line. Financial worry sits at the back of our minds, eating away at the energy we would otherwise pour into doing our best work.

The Money & Pensions Services reported that in 2018, 11% of U.K. workers experienced a fall in productivity at some point in the preceding three years, as a result of poor financial circumstances.

Flexible working arrangements

If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything it’s that people want flexibility with when they work and how they work. So it makes total sense why this makes our list of the best employee benefits to offer your team.

Globally, 16% of companies are now remote, and this figure is expected to rise substantially in the next decade. Leaders are realising that both productivity and performance aren’t impacted by remote work and it can even reduce overheads for businesses.

It seems that more and more people are seeking out careers with remote or hybrid working opportunities. In fact, 74% of professionals expect remote work to become the new norm in the near future.

The pandemic has proven that people are able to work remotely, and while it comes with its own set of challenges, any great leader who wants to future-proof their employee benefits packages should definitely not overlook this.

Family-oriented staff benefits

Finally, there has been a huge surge in support for employees that focus on family planning and parental benefits.

It’s increasingly apparent that employees want access to employee benefits packages that not only support them but their families too.

This has been seen in the demand for fertility treatment, the rise of surrogacy, and also in supporting employees with common childcare expenses.

As Gen Z and millennials reach the age of having children, while also becoming the largest segment of the workforce, leaders must react to the demand for these staff benefits.

This stage in our lives can often be a difficult one to navigate and comes with its own ups and downs. For example, employees who are dealing with fertility issues often don’t speak up about their problems and instead suffer in silence.

This leads to a rise in absenteeism and presenteeism and can have a detrimental impact on business performance and employee productivity.

All in all, family-oriented staff benefits prove to employees that employers care for them and their futures. Family drives our happiness and plays a pivotal role in both our present and future lives.

It’s important to create an open environment to fertility, family planning and issues faced by parents - that way, you can cater your employee benefits packages those in the workplace.

Two women smiling in an office environment
There's a wrong way to offer employee benefits packages

The wrong way to offer employee benefits packages

Believe it or not, there is a wrong way to offer staff benefits. Actually, a very wrong way. In some cases the misuse of employee benefits packages can hinder business growth, drive unhappiness at work and increase staff turnover.

Like anything in business, your employee benefits packages must to be executed without faults and flaws. Let’s take a look below at a few of the ways your staff benefits do more harm than good.

Hopefully, this should give you a good idea — as a leader — of what not to do with your employee benefits packages.

Unlimited annual leave policy

Often portrayed as the holy grail of employee benefits packages, unlimited annual leave can be a very messy initiative to offer your team.

This is because, although it sounds great on the surface, many employees are too concerned about how much annual leave they take and how often they take it.

Employees end up taking less than they should to avoid burnout and thrive in the workplace on well-rested breaks.

You won’t be surprised to hear that in this scenario presenteeism will skyrocket — leading to a slippery slope towards burnout and exhaustion.

Unlimited annual leave, as part of your staff benefits can work for some companies. But this depends on how this initiative is managed.

It’s a good idea to handle unlimited annual leave on a case-by-case basis. This gives leadership teams a good indication of how much holiday a certain employee has taken, any deadlines and objectives they have coming up and other considerations.

For a large majority of employers, this is one to leave out of your staff benefits, if we’re completely honest with you.

Not accommodating for a younger workforce‍

As Gen Z makes up around 20% of the workforce, and millennials around 50%, employers mustn’t get caught out offering outdated and stale staff benefits.

The younger generations of the workplace are health-conscious and fitness-driven, with more of a focus on being environmentally and socially responsible.

Benefits such as discounted fast-food won’t last much longer in the eyes of those in their 20s and 30s, who are looking for leadership support for subsidised gym memberships and healthy meal delivery incentives.

As a leader, you must recognise the shifting demand for healthier lifestyles and empower employees in this aspect of their lives.  

Especially considering that the healthier we are, the happier we are at work and our productivity and performance also improve.

What’s more, around 30M working days are lost in the UK due to work-related ill-health and injury each year. So helping your team to lead healthier, happier lives can boost employee retention and decrease the chances of absenteeism and presenteeism.

A female employee working at home with a view of a lake
Employees are looking for meaningful and practical employee benefits

Discouraging the use of employee benefits packages

Moving on now, this particular point might sound bizarre, but some toxic workplace environments actively discourage the usage of staff benefits.

In most instances, it isn’t that employers simply don’t offer employee benefits packages, but that they are either discouraged or aren’t spoken about enough by leadership teams.

In one survey, 49% of employees reported that they do not understand the employee benefits materials provided to them by their employer.

Another example of discouraging incentives for employees is how a lot of people simply don’t take enough breaks throughout the year due to the pressures of workload and managers.

According to the Independent, in a survey of around 2,000 participants, six in ten feel they don’t take enough time off away from work.

That’s not all, some companies offer other staff benefits such as shorter days or alternating shorter weeks, yet, have built up a workplace culture of being ‘always-on’ — which, of course, is counterintuitive.  

As a leader, it’s your job to ensure employees feel as though they can make use of any of the staff benefits available to them. Better yet, leaders should actively encourage breaks and the use of other perks and incentives on a regular basis.

Irrelevant staff benefits

Moving on to the relevancy of your employee benefits. Too often employees are given employee benefits packages that are too generic to be of any interest to them.

In an IFEBP survey, 31% of respondents said they don’t perceive any value in the employee benefits packages offered to them.

It’s safe to assume that a large percentage of this comes down to one of three reasons; irrelevancy, becoming outdated or being too generic.

  • Irrelevant: remote working employees probably aren’t going to benefit from a cycle-to-work scheme if they are based 25 miles from the office.
  • Outdated: using a gym membership to tick the wellbeing box for a company’s employee benefits package has become an outdated trend.
    With a growing workforce of health-conscious people, companies offering very little in the way of employee wellbeing are slowly being recognised as outdated.
  • Too generic: Generic staff benefits such as subsidised life insurance and dental care are great incentives for employees but feel very generic and mundane.

A lot of these rarely have any impact on the day-to-day lives of employees and for that reason, they’re very often met with an unimpressed workforce who want tailored staff benefits.

Employers who are serious about offering meaningful employee benefits packages and want to support healthier, happier employees, must dig deeper into what their team needs.

It isn’t enough to assume your business is offering a superb range of staff benefits for employees without analysing if they’re being used or not.

Leaders who truly understand what brings happiness to their employees know how to build robust employee benefits packages. Be direct with your questions about what they want from staff benefits and you’ll be a lot closer to a successful business.

Questions to ask your team about staff benefits

Consider asking your team these ten questions when refining your current employee benefits packages — you’ll have a much better understanding of where you are at and what direction you need to take your staff benefits.

  1. What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
  2. How well do you understand current staff benefits?
  3. How happy are you with our employee benefits packages?
  4. What three existing staff benefits would you keep?
  5. Do you believe your current annual leave entitlement is sufficient?
  6. Would you recommend working here based on the staff benefits?
  7. Are you happy with your current career development opportunities?
  8. What employee benefits have you never used?
  9. Are you satisfied with the working arrangements?
  10. Are there any comments or suggestions you would like to share?

The above should help you identify gaps and shortfalls in your company’s employee benefits packages.

These questions just scratch the surface, and you should do your own research to cater the questions specifically to your team.

3 companies leading the way for staff benefits

They say one of the best ways to succeed is to learn from the greats. Well, it seems this can also be linked to the leaders in staff benefits too.

Below, we’ve looked at three of the most well-recognised companies that provide employees with ample high-quality employee benefits packages.


Starting with Microsoft, founded by Bill Gates in 1996, this company prides itself on not only building a healthy workforce but emphasises creating an environment of community and wellbeing.

For many employees, medical, dental, and vision staff benefits are the reality of working at Microsoft, while on-campus clinics are also never too.

What’s more, Microsoft does an extremely great job of offering extensive networking and social events for employees to build long-term relationships at work.

As mentioned in our top five employee benefits, Microsoft has also been known to offer adoption, fertility, and immigration support.

A Microsoft office from outside the building
Microsoft are renown for their staff benefits


The streaming giant that is Netflix has never been too far from positive headlines of its employee benefits packages.

Netflix has been known to provide generous annual leave allowance, a stock option program, and extremely competitive salaries which they consider “top of the market”.

Furthermore, Netflix supports parents with substantial parental leave, flexible working hours, and meals on the house for office-based employees.

Netflix really is one of the major players when it comes to quality staff benefits, and their long list of incentives for employees couldn’t go unacknowledged.

Netflix office with skyline at dusk
Streaming Giant Netflix offer robust employee benefits packages


Last but certainly not least, Salesforce. Founded in California in 1999, this innovative company has built up authority in the CRM space over the past couple of decades.

Outside of its operations, it has been known for its people-centric approach to employee benefits packages.

This approach is displayed in its medical, dental, and vision programs (similar to that of Microsoft); along with a range of life and disability insurance available to employees.

According to Candor, Salesforce has one of the most generous parental leave policies in the tech world. Primary caregivers are 26-week leave after having a child, with secondary caregivers provided with 12-week parental leave. Salesforce also supports employees with adoption, surrogacy, and fertility.

Finally, Salesforce also offers a $100 wellbeing reimbursement program for nutritionists, yoga and fitness classes, and have also recently acquired a ranch in California to use as an office and retreat for employees.

Salesforce tower office in San Francisco
How Salesforce are leading with their staff benefits

Other notable employee benefits leaders

Microsoft, Netflix, and Salesforce are just a few of the successful companies offering exceptional staff benefits with a people-first approach to business.  Here are some other big names making a difference when it comes to employee benefits packages:

  • Starbucks
  • Capital One
  • Facebook
  • Airbnb
  • HubSpot
  • The Body Shop
  • Costco Wholesale
  • Campbell Soup Company
  • Sage
  • Spotify

As a leader, you should draw inspiration from the companies above. Think about how you can replicate some of their employee benefits packages with your budget.

Granted, it’s not always possible to match the likes of Facebook, Netflix and other tech giants, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to build a people-centric approach to your staff benefits.

Similar read: The power of wellbeing gifts for staff

Our final thoughts on staff benefits

There you have it! Our ultimate guide to staff benefits covers everything you need to know to build healthier, happier perks for your employees.

Hopefully, you can see from our guide the extreme importance of employee benefits packages and the role they play in engaging employees, retaining talent and boosting job satisfaction.

The next few years look to be an interesting period for staff benefits, and it’s organisations that draw inspiration from the leaders we’ve mentioned above who will thrive.

Leaders must recognise that their people are their biggest asset; the most important stakeholder in the business. Without top talent and an eager workforce, businesses will fall behind.

We sincerely believe that staff benefits can be a huge contributor to the success many businesses lack or spend forever chasing.

But what have we learnt from this ultimate guide to staff benefits? We’ve discovered that there are many wrong ways to offer employee benefits packages.

Some of these shortcomings still exist in hundreds of businesses and their negative implications go unnoticed.

They should be viewed as learnings (or things to avoid) to take away from the past decade of employee benefits.

In the modern workplace, companies must assign the task of closely monitoring staff benefits so to prevent them from becoming stale, impractical or underutilised.

The question we have is how are your staff benefits going to evolve in the coming months and years? What can you do — and offer — differently from your competitors to attract and retain talent?

And most importantly, are you personalising your employee benefits packages to deliver exactly what it is for employees to be healthier and happier in the workplace?

Using Heka to support employee benefits packages

At Heka, we’re building one of the most powerful employee benefits platforms with a twist… it’s 100% focused on health and wellbeing.

With so many platforms offering the likes of discounted fast-food, free coffee vouchers, and consumer tech, we think health and wellbeing are vastly neglected.

Through Heka, employees have access to more than 3,000 wellbeing experiences, services, and products with brands that they know and love.

Regardless of where in the UK members are located, our platform delivers virtual live yoga instructors, text-based online therapy sessions, virtual consultations with nutritionists and so much more.

Forward-thinking companies are beginning to recognise the growing importance (and demand) of wellbeing in our everyday lives - along with its impact on our professional lives.

Companies who want to build sustainably healthier and happier employees are turning to Heka for the solution to staff benefits.

If you’d like to discuss how Heka can help revolutionise your employee benefits strategy, why not book a demo with one of our wellbeing experts?

They will be more than happy to walk you through our benefits platform and explain all the great staff benefits that your team can receive through Heka.

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