Good Work for All: How Amey is improving the relevance and uptake of fringe benefits

Recognising the need to improve wellbeing to reduce the cost of sickness absence and improve working lives, infrastructure support company Amey set about trying to increase the uptake and relevance of fringe benefits among their lowest paid staff.

Each year in January, Amey opens its ‘benefits window’ where employees can choose from a range of benefits covering insurance, lifestyle, health, and wellbeing for the rest of the year. Using the Work Foundation’s Typology of Fringe Benefits, Business in the Community conducted a review of the current offer in terms of content and communications and tested ideas in focus groups with Amey’s lowest-paid employees.
 
Hearing what works
Reaching Amey’s lowest-paid staff was challenging because of disparate site locations, varying shift patterns, and low digital connectivity. Following an initial review of uptake and communication in the previous year’s benefits window, Business in the Community worked with Amey to test ideas about benefits changes in two wellbeing focus groups at a construction site in Sheffield. Benefits that suited everyone included the option to buy more holiday, length of service benefits and job sharing.
 
Hearing from employees also helped to identify several areas which needed to improve. There was a clear desire for pay to be equalised across contracts, sick pay to be offered from day one, and health check-ups to ensure fitness for work. Employees also wanted flexible working to be offered to all workers, a review of shift patterns and timetables and more opportunities to feed back to management on issues.
 
Staff preferred face-to-face briefings from shift supervisors to being sent information to their home addresses.
 
Recommendations
BITC developed a range of recommendations off the back of the information that had been gathered during the first phase. These focused both on changes to the fringe benefits on offer and how these were communicated to employees. Changes to the benefits on offer included introducing financial wellbeing support such as low-cost loans for employees, free annual healthcare screenings and dental fee support, the offer of paid breaks and support with costs at work such as food and drink on site, and a review of shift patterns and flexible working opportunities for staff.
 
Recommendations were also made in terms of how Amey’s fringe benefits were communicated to staff in order to improve uptake. These included the creation of employee stories to show savings peers had made, offering regular opportunities for teams to feed back on work conditions and wellbeing issues, and to focus on peer-to-peer communication and sharing of information at shift meetings.
 
Amey also committed to introducing new and improved benefits throughout the year and as they become available as opposed to waiting until the following year when the ‘benefits window’ reopens.  In response to the issue of staff on minimum wage being unable to access some benefits, the company is considering the cost and return on investment of providing a salary uplift to all affected workers to enable them to take these benefits, if desired.

Top tips for businesses
Involving front-line employees in discussions about their working lives is crucial to understanding what benefits are valued and how to communicate them effectively. Offering regular opportunities for teams to feed back face-to-face on work conditions and well-being issues will make sure benefits offers are in step with the needs of low-paid staff. Gaining clear senior commitment from within the organisation and dedicating staff time to making changes will ensure effective consultation and action on the results. Feeding back to teams will demonstrate they are being listened to and their suggestions are being acted on, where practical.