Cutting the cost of benefits is top of the agenda for employers, according to research from Mercer.

Due to the financial instability in 2011 many organisations are now questioning the feasibility of maintaining their workplace health schemes. Nearly 85 per cent of HR professionals stated that addressing(?) the cost of these programmes was in their top three priorities this year.

Naomi Saragoussi, Principal in Mercer’s Health & Benefits business, believes that there has been a shift in attitudes to a “doing more with less” view, as businesses consequently have to become more resourceful.

She commented: “There is a growing trend towards employee wellbeing initiatives, increased employer–employee cost sharing and a move towards employees deciding how they want their benefits to be shaped.”

The consultancy has highlighted six key areas of focus for companies in 2012. It predicts that flexible benefits will expand, saving employers’ money on elements not used by all, while offering more choice to those who do wish to pay for certain provisions.

Organisations will need to reassess their corporate benefit provision in order to deal with the abolition of the default retirement age, such as considering whether older workers be insurable under private medical cover. Likewise, Mercer anticipates that premiums will rise and employers will need to renegotiate competitive terms.

There will be a greater focus on wellbeing and absence, as well as a growing demand for alternative benefits.

Finally, preparing for auto-enrolment through strategy, provider capability and communication will be paramount.