London: HR consultancy Mercer has teamed up with business software and services provider Sage UK to launch Sage Employee Benefits, a new service designed to make it easier and more affordable for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to introduce staff benefits packages.
Sage Employee Benefits offers small business owners the opportunity to provide benefits packages including medical cover/insurance, life insurance, income protection, pensions, travel and dental insurance. Provided via Mercer's mercer-elect solution, the service harnesses Mercer's strong relationships within the insured benefits market developed from its work with multi-nationals. The proposition is designed to give SMEs — looking to provide cover for up to 100 employees — access to competitive rates and leading benefits normally only available to larger organisations.
Research conducted amongst 1,000 SMEs in September 2011 for the Sage UK Omnibus survey found that although two thirds of small business owners (68%) identified benefits packages as being vital to retaining and attracting top employees, only one third (35%) currently offer them because of the perceived cost and administrative burden associated with such schemes.
"Whilst most employers understand the significance of offering a benefits package, SMEs still have concerns regarding costs and the time required for administration. That's why Mercer and Sage launched Sage Employee Benefits with mercer-elect. Designed with small business owners in mind from day one, it makes bespoke benefit packages simple to roll out and easy to manage at an affordable price," explained Matthew Forrest, Head of Commercial Marketing, Small Business Division, Sage UK.
The Sage Employee Benefits solution simplifies the administration associated with running a benefits scheme by providing a secure online portal which both employers and employees can access via their PC anytime they need information. The 'anytime access' helps free up entrepreneurs' time allowing them to spend more time focusing on running their business.
Users of the service also benefit from access to Mercer's teams of specialist advisors who provide expert guidance and insight on the latest legislation and market developments. This is all aimed at ensuring that SMEs are getting the most value from their packages.
"To think that employee benefits packages are the exclusive preserve of big business is simply wrong. When the changes brought about by the Pensions Act 2008 start to come into effect from next year, employer provision and contribution to pensions will switch from 'nice-to-have' to a legal necessity for all organisations over the next few years," commented Simon Griffiths, Principal at Mercer. "At a time when pay rises, if they occur at all, are below the rate of inflation, employees are placing great value on the other benefits that their employers provide. We're very pleased to be working with Sage and making the type of benefit that multinational employees enjoy as standard, available to the small business community."
According to Mercer's own What's Working research benefits play a significant role in whether employees join an organisation or not (30%), and the figure increases to 36% when employees are deciding whether to remain at their current employer. While that particular report dealt with attitudes within multinational companies, the same sentiments are evident in the SME sector, says Mercer. With 75% of firms freezing pay in 2011 (Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, August 2011) the importance attributed to benefits packages is only set to increase.