How Employee Benefits Can Help Your Company Attract Top Talent

Many companies in the Gulf are offering benefits in an effort to attract top talent and have a more engaged workforce, but is it worth it?

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Employee benefits are a hot topic right now. Business leaders are aware of both the moral obligation of taking care of their workforce and the competitive advantage that can be gained by offering valuable benefits. Indeed, many companies in the Gulf are offering benefits in an effort to attract top talent and have a more engaged workforce. But is it worth it?


Are companies realizing financial gains by providing for their employees in this way? And are those gains exceeding the cost of the benefits? Let's look at some of the most common add-on benefits and their ROI.

1. Dental care Health insurance is a given for nearly all companies, but dental care is a more unusual benefit. A dental plan is normally offered through varying levels of cover to help employees claim for routine care, crowns and dentures. Yet, the Willis Towers Watson 2017 Global Medical Trends Survey Report shows that nearly one third of employers don't currently offer it. So, it's an opportunity to set your company apart from the competition when attracting and retaining talent.

Is dental care worth the cost? A 2016 survey of UK employees and corporate decision makers found that 69% of employers offering a dental plan agreed that it helped to attract new employees, while one third of employees without access to a plan felt it would make them view their employer in a more positive light. As every boss knows, a business is only as good as its people. The effect of dental care benefits on talent acquisition and employee engagement, as well as a reduction in lost hours due to absence, is an increase in productivity. For a relatively modest investment, the financial return from dental care far outweighs the cost.

2. Optical care An optical care plan covers the cost of routine eye appointments, prescriptions and loss of sight, all of which have become increasingly important due to the amount of time we spend looking at screens. The Willis Towers Watson 2017 Global Medical Trends Survey Report found that 35% of the world's employers don't offer an optical care plan, so again you can get ahead of your competitors by doing so.

Is there additional ROI when providing optical care? Optical care cover can be very reasonably priced. In addition, there are some significant additional benefits that aren't immediately obvious. For example, optometrists are trained to spot early signs of ailments like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Theirs is a vital role in a society where 21% of the population has type 2 diabetes. A complication of poorly treated diabetes is diabetic retinopathy, a disease that affects eye blood vessels and leads to blindness. One study published in the journal of BMC Ophthalmology found that of 513 diabetic patients in the UAE, 19% had retinopathy and 74% of them were not aware of it. Another major study found that the annual cost of treating diabetes patients almost doubled by US$ 2,137 if the patient had diabetic retinopathy. So, regular eye checks can save much more than they cost in such cases.

3. Maternity leave In the UAE, female employees in the private sector who have been in the job for more than one year are entitled to 45 days fully paid maternity leave. Those who have been employed for less than one year receive half pay. However, some employers are choosing to match the 90 days maternity benefit now being offered in the public sector.

What are the benefits of extending maternity leave? You might assume that doubling maternity leave will double the associated costs: temp cover, fall in productivity, and so on. But this doesn't appear to play out. When the State of California introduced six weeks of paid family leave per year for bonding with a new child, the US Center for Economic and Policy Research found that 91% of businesses said it had no positive or negative effect on turnover. Therefore, extending the term increases the value of the benefit out of all proportion with the added cost.

Related: How To Secure Employee Loyalty In The Middle East

4. Annual health checks An "employee MoT" will check blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, body mass index, smoking status and general fitness. As part of a wider wellness program, the data from these checks enables employers to spot potential health risks among their workforce and provide tailored wellbeing classes and information. A healthy workforce costs less in health bills and delivers more in productivity.

How can health checks save money? Bad lifestyle choices and chronic health problems among employees can have a severe impact on a company's bottom line. In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) has been running free five-yearly health checks for 40-to-75 year-olds since 2009. In its first four years this helped to prevent 1,800 strokes, 1,500 heart attacks and 9,700 cases of diabetes. Each prevented stroke saved the NHS the equivalent of AED 13,289, each heart attack saved AED 12,758 and each case of diabetes AED 19,723. Investing a little in annual health checks can save your business a great deal more in healthcare payouts.

5. Dependants cover Most workers also have families who require health cover. In the UAE, citizens receive some cover under government-run programmes, while for expats the extent of dependant cover is often based on the employee salary and location within the UAE. In Dubai it's the legal responsibility of the sponsor to make sure dependants are covered, but in Abu Dhabi the responsibility falls fifty-fifty on sponsor and employer for the first three children. Yet, some employers are choosing to be more generous still and provide full cover for all dependants.

What's the cost of covering dependants? Willis Towers Watson research shows that adding a dependant can increase healthcare costs by $3,400 per year. However, an audit of eligibility, which removes any dependants no longer eligible from the policy, can cut a company's health cover costs by 5% to 8%. It's a process that allows you to offer more without spending more. Get tracking All these benefits offer excellent ROI when implemented properly. The important thing is to keep track of the costs and the outcomes, so you can see for yourself whether the benefits you offer are working for you. Remember to measure employee satisfaction as well. Once you start to see the correlation between spend, engagement and profit, you can shape your benefits for maximum financial advantage.

Related: How UAE-Based SMEs Should Customize Staff Health Insurance Benefits