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‘Duvet days’, ‘pawternity leave’ and ‘menstrual leave’?

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Are HR teams going overboard on benefits to attract talent? It could backfire  

So, you want to be an understanding boss, offering attractive incentives to retain your loyal, hard-working staff – and then your employee looks you directly in the eye and asks for ‘Pawternity’ leave to care for their new Bichon Frisé puppy… what do you do?  

With skills shortages at an all-time high and young job seekers becoming more demanding, employers are having to up their game when it comes to attracting the best talent. Apart from mandatory employee benefits such as maternity, paternity, adoption, holiday pay and sick leave, there’s no legal requirement for employers to offer additional incentives like flexi-working, however, if they don’t, job seekers will choose companies who do.  

As well as offering a competitive salary and pension, additional non-wage benefits include private healthcare, counselling and gym memberships.  

Flexible working and hybrid working models are game changers for potential employees so organisations who don’t offer those as options will undoubtedly lose candidates to those organisations that do.  

A few of the other firm favourite benefits include sabbatical leave, bonuses and upskilling and the four-day work week. Considering the cost-of-living crisis, candidates are also obviously looking for higher salaries and even comprehensive retirement plans.  

In a post-pandemic workplace, young job seekers want to work somewhere that aligns with their own values – this is becoming increasingly important to Gen Z and Millennials – so a £25 gift voucher won’t do the job. Gen Z wants more – and they’re not afraid to ask it.  

The benefits of companies offering incentives can be huge, in terms of the talent the business attracts, as well as engaging and retaining current employees.  

Some employers have introduced ‘duvet days’ (not to be confused with a ‘hangover day’) to enhance productivity. But if every employee asks for their duvet day on the same day this could be financially crippling for small businesses. And what about important deadlines to be met if no one is working?  

So, as an employer trying to attract new talent, do you offer generic benefits or bespoke incentives to mirror the unique needs of the employee and where do you draw the line?  

An array of benefit offerings

As the needs of the workforce change, so do the incentives with some companies offering: 

  • Wellbeing days: Designated days to help employees focus on their wellbeing – this is separate from annual leave and sick days.  
  • Fertility treatment leave: Supporting couples going through treatments like IVF. 
  • Menstrual leave: Earlier this year, Spain became the first European country to give workers paid menstrual leave as well as passing numerous sexual and reproductive rights laws. Japan introduced menstrual leave in the labour law in 1947 – citing employers cannot ask women, who experience difficult periods, to work on those days. 
  • Pet leave – Also known as ’Pawternity’ leave – this is paid leave to help employees adjust to new pet owning duties – including adopting a rescue animal. 

Menopause is garnering a lot of attention as awareness around it increases. Women in the workforce of a certain age are struggling with changing hormones and while it’s not a specific protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, employers would do well considering offering flexibility around it. According to ACAS, if an employee is put at a disadvantage and treated less favourably because of their menopause symptoms, it could be considered discrimination if related to a protected characteristic, such as age, disability, gender reassignment and sex. 

As well as employers offering competitive salaries as a given – there’s a new phenomenon of ‘perkwashing’ – where employers are so desperate to attract new employees they are inflating what they can offer and some fall short of what they have promised. 

As the demand for talent continues, with no signs of skills shortages abating, lessons can be learned here when it comes to designing talent attraction strategies.  

 TA teams should not offer benefits that they cannot deliver. If you need your team to be at their desk, every day, between 9-5, you can’t promote flexible working. To roll out effective company benefits, the incentives have to be realistic.

Ken Brotherston, CEO at TALiNT Partners commented: “While flexible benefits programmes have been around for a long time, the wide range of benefits is increasing and it’s is making it harder for TA teams manage.”   

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