Gallagher survey finds UK employers struggle to match a fair benefits offering with the rising costs of widening the eligibility net.

UK employers are struggling to bridge the gap between offering a spread of benefits that meets the needs of all employees regardless of level, category or service and rising costs.

According to a new survey released today by Gallagher, 71 per cent of employers say they struggle with the rising cost of benefits; which is down from 74 per cent in 2018. Sixty-seven per cent say appealing to a diverse workforce with varying preferences is one of their biggest challenges.

According to Gallagher’s 2019 Benefits Strategy and Benchmarking Survey, 15 per cent of companies are planning to make changes to their criteria for eligibility to extend the same treatment to all employees in a range of areas. For example 42 per cent of companies are offering shared parental leave on the same basis as maternity leave, up from 35 per cent last year. In 2019, there has also been a trend towards ‘same for all’ annual leave eligibility 52 percent, up from 46 per cent; and ‘service-related’ 34 per cent, down from 37 per cent.

Despite best intentions, most employers have not increased their flexible and voluntary benefits offering. Last year, 47 per cent said that they planned to improve flexibility in the provision of benefits, however this year just 22 per cent of companies offer some form of flexible benefits (up slightly from 20 per cent last year). Seventy-eight per cent of organisations offer no flexibility, whilst just 5 per cent offer full flexibility. Practical challenges in implementing these changes include negotiating with providers and choosing a delivery method.

Given all the challenges facing employers, more organisations are researching the market, with the number saying they struggled to understand their organisations position against the market dropping to 34 per cent, compared to 52 per cent last year. However, just 43 per cent poll their employees and only 27 per cent have a pre-defined communications budget. Of those that do, 85 per cent spend just 10p per employee per month to outline the benefits available to them; limiting the maximum value employees can get from their benefits. Thirty-seven per cent find communicating about benefits a challenge.

The survey asked employers how their strategies are evolving to keep pace with changing employee priorities across the spectrum of benefits including pensions, workplace perks and flexible working.

Further key findings from the survey are below:

  • 71 per cent struggle with the increasing costs of benefits
  • 43 per cent will be making changes to their benefits in 2020
  • 26 per cent of these intend to make changes to benefits incrementally within existing benefits
  • 17 per cent more employers contribute a standard fix rate to all employees’ retirement savings
  • 78 per cent offer no flexible benefits
  • 63 per cent provide no voluntary benefits
  • 35 per cent fewer organisations struggle to understand their position in the market (18 point decrease)
  • 67 per cent face challenges in appealing to their diverse workforces
  • 57 per cent don’t survey their employees about benefits and wellbeing
  • 83 per cent offer no savings plans beyond retirement savings
  • 56 per cent lack a pre-defined benefit communications budget
  • 12 per cent use digital total reward statements

Nick Burns, CEO at Gallagher’s UK Employee Benefits Consulting Division, said: “Benefits are by no means a silver bullet towards achieving a happy workforce, but employers must adopt a holistic view if they are going to improve retention and engagement of top talent. It is clear from this report that most organisations know this as the majority of employers who are planning changes to their offering say they are going to enhance benefits in order to build a better workplace. With the needs and priorities of employees changing, this report highlights how employers address their employees’ concerns and balance rising costs in order to face the future with confidence.”


Gallagher developed the first UK version of the Benefits Strategy & Benchmarking Survey in 2018 to provide employers with insights into how their peers are addressing benefit and talent management challenges. This year’s survey, conducted from April to July 2019, aggregates responses from 243 organisations across the UK from various industries and sectors, and of varying size and revenue streams. The survey has previously been conducted in the U.S. and Canada. Additional survey results can be found at