Employers encouraged to help employees achieve financial resilience

02 September 2020 FNB

While employers, irrespective of the size or nature of their business, do care about the financial security and wellbeing of their employees, many still have the misperception that employee benefits solutions are the exclusive domain of large corporates with plenty of money to spare.

According to Elize Giese, CEO of Employee Benefits at FNB, it’s a belief that is misguided, and one that Covid-19 showed needs to be addressed.

“While a compelling employee benefits offering has long been recognised as a strong drawcard for attracting the best talent, the impact that Covid-19 had on many employees in South Africa highlighted the fact that offering your employees benefits that go beyond just a monthly salary, is as much an imperative today as it is an essential business requirement.”

Giese points out that the evolution of employee benefits, particularly over the past few years, means that delivering on this business and moral responsibility is within reach of most businesses, even SMEs.

She argues that it’s a situation that urgently needs to be addressed and contends that introducing appropriate employee benefits solutions as part of SME overall remuneration structures, has a key role to play in building resilience for the business and their employees.

As employees increasingly felt the financial brunt of Covid-19, many of them had nowhere else to turn for help but their employers. Most of these employers were facing their own massive survival struggles and simply couldn’t absorb the additional financial shock of being approached for assistance by their desperate workers.

Giese points out that a well-structured employee benefits package, aligned with the identified needs of employee groups, is the ideal way of avoiding this type of additional financial pressure on employee and employer alike in the future. An effective employee benefits package is characterised by simplicity, communication and a needs-based design as the three are non-negotiable components.

“Simplicity is arguably the most important characteristic that any employee benefits solution should have, both in terms of ensuring that employees fully understand the benefits they receive and making sure that the administrative burden of offering the scheme is minimal for the employer.”

In line with this simplicity requirement, Giese emphasises that effective member communication and education is essential. “It doesn’t help to offer a great employee benefit plan, but then leave your employees to their own devices without understanding what these benefits mean,” she says, “what is needed is a range of complementary communications channels that work together to help members see the full picture of their financial future, and guide them to make good, informed decisions to optimise their financial wellbeing.”

She points to FNB’s app-based communications platform as a prime example of this type of supportive and accessible employee benefits communications offering. “Members who are also FNB clients have instant access to a comprehensive view of their entire financial situation, including their bank, credit, insurance and savings balances and the balance in their retirement fund investment,” she explains, “all of which removes the guesswork for the member, employer and the employee benefits provider and enables them to work together effectively to ensure the member achieves the best possible financial outcomes.”

And the final essential requirement of any effective employee benefits plan, according to Giese, is that it has the flexibility and capability to be aligned with the identified needs of members. “There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all employee benefits structure,” she says, “and as Covid-19 taught us, employees require benefits that enable them to be as prepared as possible for any future economic scenario. This means an effective employee benefits offering has to be more than a retirement fund and life cover solution – it needs to also offer solid opportunities for members to build their personal resilience through affordable savings and appropriate insurance options.”

Giese highlights that the pandemic made the world realise just how unpredictable the future is. And while we can’t predict what the future may hold, we can, and must, prepare for it. She believes that employers have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to help their employees do that. “Businesses must make it easy for their employees to achieve the resilience they need, and a sound employee benefits solution is the easy and affordable way to do precisely that.”

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