Mind the reward gap! Almost half of European employees want a flexible rewards package - yet only one fifth currently have control

16 October 2018

Brussels, 16 October 2018 - With flexible working on the rise employees are seeking more influence and flexibility over all aspects of their professional lives, including their reward packages. Almost half (49%) of European workers want the ability to control their benefits and determine the composition of their reward package. However this option isn’t being taken into account by businesses, as the vast majority of employers (81%) still have complete control over their employees’ remuneration. These results come from the latest survey conducted across six European countries by the Payroll & HR services provider SD Worx, which also examined the benefits that workers would like to prioritise the most.

Employees will sacrifice benefits for increased salary & holidays

If given the option, a fifth (19%) of European workers would actually prefer to have fewer benefits and have more cash instead, which proved to be the most popular change workers would make. This was highest in the UK where 28% of employees would prefer a rise in salary, compared to only 11% in Belgium. The next most likely to agree with this change are Austrian (20%) and French (20%) workers, ahead of German (19%) and Dutch (17%) employees, indicating that often softer benefits aren’t a priority when compared to an increase in take home pay. 

In line with this, 14% of European workers would be happy to sacrifice their holiday allowance in exchange for a boost in pay. However the third most popular change would be an increase in holiday (12.6%), with an active reduction in other benefits. 

Regardless of the specific rewards that employees prefer, the desire for flexibility is so high that 66% of employees would be more likely to apply for a new job if the prospective employer offered the opportunity for them to put together a personalised remuneration based on a certain budget. 

Across all European employees working for organisations that offer a set budget for tailored benefits, 71% agree that they are satisfied and 72% intend to stay with the business for a long time. Moreover, 71% say they would remain in the organisation, even if they received a comparable offer from another employer. In terms of employee retention in an increasingly competitive talent market, getting rewards policies right is absolutely crucial. 

Traditional benefits still prove popular

Across Europe, businesses in Austria (28%) and the Netherlands (24%) are already more likely to give employees a set budget to define how their remuneration package is composed, whilst firms in Belgium (9%) are the least likely to do so. When it comes to tailored benefits, if financial reward is taken out of the equation, and  employees are given a set budget to put together a bespoke remuneration package, nearly half (44%) would opt for extra holiday. In terms of transport, the company car is king across Europe - with almost a fifth (18%) preferring one over public transport allowances (15%) or a leased bicycle (4%). 

Flexible working also plays a significant role in the benefits employees would choose, with home working allowances being a key factor for 15% of respondents and 19% wanting a laptop or smartphone included in their benefits package.

More traditional benefits remained popular choices for the workers offered control of their remuneration, with a third opting for an individual pension scheme. Hospital insurance premiums are also a priority, with 14% of workers wanting a contribution to medical expenses, whilst 9% of employees would want this for their family members too. 

Employees value a good work/life balance

In terms of motivations, work/life balance, and the ability to take more annual leave, is the top priority for many workers and 46% explicitly see this as an incentive for choosing certain benefits. Employees in France (63%) prioritise this the most across the Europe, whilst workers in Austria (36%) and the Netherlands (32%) are least likely to opt for additional annual leave. 

Wage optimisation is always a significant influencing factor, with over a third (36%) of employees stating they would choose benefits that reduce tax and/or social security contributions. The key role that money plays in people’s reward decision making is also highlighted by the 22% of workers who would exchange benefits for cash premiums, such as more money in exchange for fewer annual leave days or a smaller company car. Sustainability, and the focus on benefits that favour transport with fewer emissions, were only a priority for 14% workers. 

“Whilst money may seem an obvious incentive, in an increasingly flexible world, employees across Europe are also placing a great emphasis on their personal lives, and having a good work/life balance is clearly very important to them,” said Hilde Haems, Chief Human Resources Officer at SD Worx. “Mobility and flexible working all contribute to a culture where the employee is in control of their professional day to day. The ability to tailor a benefits package to suit your individual needs is of great interest for many workers, and businesses need to do more to offer this as standard. Doing so will not only keep current employees happy, it will also help companies find and recruit the best talent.”

For more information, please contact 

Ilona Mosejeva/Katie Evans/Laura Lovejoy
T: 020 7680 5500

About the survey

The Europe LTD survey is a questionnaire on one hundred work-related aspects relevant to employee satisfaction, motivation, involvement and engagement. Since 2009, the survey has been carried out annually among 2,500 Belgian employees under the name NV Belgium. Because of its international growth, SD Worx expanded this survey in 2017 to include Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria and the United Kingdom. It concerns 500 employees each time. 

The sample is representative of the specific local labour markets, with the same composition as to statute ((blue-collar) workers, office workers and civil servants), gender, region, work regime, language, educational degree and organisation size as that of the active labour population in the countries concerned. 

About SD Worx

As the leading European player in payroll and HR, SD Worx provides worldwide services in the areas of payroll, HR, legal support, training, automation, consultancy and outsourcing. It focuses on customer centricity, fully embraces digitisation and is committed to international growth. More than 65,000 small and large organisations worldwide have currently placed their trust in SD Worx and its experience of more than 70 years. 
The 4,150 employees at SD Worx operate in ten countries: Belgium (HQ), Germany, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Austria, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. SD Worx calculates the salaries of some 4.4 million employees and achieved a turnover of €443 million in 2017. SD Worx is co-founder of the Payroll Services Alliance, a global strategic network of leading payroll companies that together provide 32 million payroll calculations.
More info on: www.sdworx.com