Two years after flexible working pipped pensions to the top spot in the employee benefits HR teams say their people value the most, they have regained pole position. 

In this year’s Punter Southall Aspire survey carried out with the CIPD, 900 of 1,700 HR professionals put pensions back at the top of the pile. Flexible working is still seen as an important feature but ranked lower with 893.

Third was mental health and wellbeing on 882.

Punter Southall Aspire Chief Executive Steve Butler said pensions had traditionally been seen as the “jewel in the crown” of employee benefits but the unprecedented impact of covid and its effect on working patterns had dislodged it, albeit temporarily.

“Normal has become a concept few of us can agree on but seeing HR teams selecting pensions as the most important employee benefit means we are moving on from dealing with a receding global health crisis to planning for the future again with a measure of confidence,” he said.

“This demonstrates the direction of travel – pensions are a constant in a changing world but that doesn’t mean you can ignore them without a cost.”

Should employers offers a plan for life after work?

Steve said 51 percent of companies surveyed did nothing to support their staff on how to plan for life after work. While just under a third did provide access to some sort of guidance and 12 per cent actually paid for it. In summary, the Advice Gap remains a canyon.

“In principle, pensions are easy. Your employee pays in, your employer pays in, the taxman pays in to build up a pot. But there are very complex decisions to make when you are approaching retirement and this is where staff look to you, their employer. Do you think turning your back is the right thing to do?”

Steve added that this gap was the reason behind Pension Potential. Free to employers and free for their people to use, it’s an online tool to help people assess how large a retirement income their pension can buy for retirement by comparing every annuity on the market. It also offers a picture of what drawdown can look like or a mix of options.

“We know the pressures on payroll and learning and development budgets. This is a no-brainer if you have no budget because it won’t cost anything but offers real value to your people planning for later life. By looking at every annuity, they could retire more on thousands more than they thought they could,” he said.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.