What basic employee benefits should you offer as a startup?

Starting a new business can be a daunting experience. There are plenty of things that can go wrong, and it can feel risky to step out in faith.

But you can reduce the risk involved by investing in products that can protect your business and give it every chance of thriving.

From insurance products to reward and recognition platforms, here we suggest a concise selection of employee benefits that could help safeguard the future of your business.

What are employee benefits?

Employee benefits refer to any compensation or perk given above and beyond an employee’s base salary. It could include anything from private health insurance coverage to retail vouchers or salary sacrifice schemes.

When strategically structured, employee benefits packages can help employers build strong relationships with their employees while providing them with essential support that adds value to their work experience.

With such a huge range of benefits to choose from, how can a startup select those benefits that will give the most value to their company, whilst remaining cost-effective?

Well to start with, think about these products in three categories:

  1. Protect against risk (basically, prepare for the worst-case scenario)
  2. Health and wellbeing (care for your current team so that they can work at their best and give your startup the best chance of becoming established)
  3. Engage and reward (motivate employees so that your business can grow long-term)

Protect against risk

What’s your worst-case scenario?

As a startup, particularly if you’re going solo or have very few employees, the loss or incapacitation of even one employee can be catastrophic. Imagine if one of your sales team suddenly passed away. Or one of your Directors developed a critical illness like cancer? Not only would this be devasting for them and their family, but the business would stall and flounder.

Also, for startups, margins can be exceedingly tight. Consider, how would you pay for a replacement to cover a colleague’s work whilst they recover from their illness. There are not many new businesses that have the reserves required to cover this eventuality.

Insurance products that come under the category “Business Protection” are a cost-effective way of insuring against the critical illness or death of an employee.

Here are the three products that would get give you a well-balanced package of support when bought together:

  1. Key Person Insurance

These policies are designed to pay out a large lump sum to help your business recover should a crucial member of staff pass away in service or become critically ill. These policies are incredibly flexible, allowing you to spend the money you wish. For example, you might choose to replace the profit you lose as a consequence of their illness or hire a replacement while they recover. You can name anyone as a “Key Person” within your company, and we recommend you take out as much Key Person Insurance as you can afford.

  1. Executive Income Protection

Executive Income Protection provides an income for a key person that is unable to work due to sickness or injury. It gives reassurance that your business will not be adversely affected should a key individual be absent for a long period of time. It ensures that you can provide your key person with an income, whilst using the money normally reserved for their salary to pay a replacement to cover their work.

  1. A Workplace Pension Review Service

From automatic enrolment to changes to default investment strategy, it can be difficult to keep up with the many changes to pensions legislation.

Penalties could be incurred from The Pension Regulator if your product does not adhere to requirements, so it is essential that you are confident that your products and practices are sound. These financial penalties could cripple an emerging business.

A Workplace Pension Review Service is designed to assure you that your scheme is compliant and you are not at risk of penalty charges. Your pension is reviewed annually by the review service and they inform you of changes to legislation as they occur. It takes the pressure away from keeping up with every change yourself, letting you focus on your business, whilst ensuring that you are providing the best pension product to your team.

Health and Wellbeing

Why health and wellbeing matters

For any company, having staff off work sick for any length of time can be frustrating. Important work has to be shared out amongst remaining colleagues, or money paid out to employ a temporary replacement. Long-term, team members can become overworked and stressed from the additional workload that absences cause. This can damage many aspects of a business - from strategic decision-making to customer service.

Providing a package of products that help care for your team can help them get treatment quicker and get back to work faster, reducing the disruption their absence can cause to your business.

Here are some employee benefits that might help:

  1. An online GP service

It’s no secret that the NHS is stretched. It can sometimes take days just to get a GP appointment, and this delays treatment and lengthens recovery time.

Giving your employees instant access to a GP can be a great way to get your team back to work faster. An online GP service is normally available from 8 am to 8 pm, seven days a week, meaning your employees can get access to a virtual GP consultation whenever they need it.

All of the doctors involved in these services are registered with the General Medical Council and schemes have to be fully accredited and regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Some online GP Services have permission to access Summary Care Records, meaning that doctors can view personal medical information and make more informed diagnoses.

All of this ensures that your team can access outstanding medical care quickly, reducing the time they are suffering and getting them back to work as fast as possible.

  1. Employee Assistance Programmes

Whilst an online GP service can help your employees return to work faster when they are suffering from physical ailments, an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) can assist them when they’re struggling with mental illness.

Many employers do consider the impact of absences due to physical illnesses when managing their startup, but few think about the effect poor mental health can have. Last year, 17 million working days were lost in the UK due to stress, anxiety and depression alone.

An EAP is a digital platform or app that gives your team access to resources that can help them manage their mental health. Although the range of resources varies from one EAP to the next, all include a way to access support from a mental health professional. This means your colleagues can get support fast, even when they’re not physically at work. It ensures you’re fulfilling your duty of care as an employer, whilst helping your team build mental resilience and manage their mental health.

Engage and Reward

Why should you try to engage and reward your staff?

As a startup, your focus is normally just on survival. You want the get your business “off the ground”, and ensure you’re hiring enough people to manage your workflow and make a bit of a profit. Thinking about “work culture” and “retention” is just not on the agenda.

But not doing your best to retain your team can be disastrous for a young company. The cost from a financial and time perspective of finding, onboarding and training a new team member can be significant. Some studies estimate that it can take as much as a year for a new member of staff to operate at peak productivity.

It’s much cheaper and hassle-free to put something in place that minimises the push factors that may encourage a member of staff to look for work elsewhere.

  1. Reward and Recognition Programmes

There are loads of employee benefits products that are designed to reward staff, but reward and recognition platforms provide an additional service. These handy websites or apps enable you to build a positive work culture.

The platforms act a little like a “digital staffroom”, providing a virtual space for your team where you can publicly acknowledge and congratulate team members who have worked above and beyond expectations. You can pass on news and information to your team and also recognise personal and professional milestones like birthdays and promotions. You can then reward your team, by sending vouchers or other gifts, or giving personalised rewards such as “go home early on Friday”.

This allows you to build a strong working culture virtually. It’s a great solution if you have remote workers or operate a hybrid workplace, as staff can log on wherever they are based. Colleagues that feel valued and cared for at work are less likely to move on and more likely to work at their best whilst on the job. This is cost-effective for you and gives your startup the best chance of succeeding.

Future-proof your startup

To succeed as a startup you need a great product, a great brand, perseverance and hard work. But to ensure long-term success you have to think about the next steps, now. How are you going to protect your company from risk, ensure your team work at their best now, and retain them so you can build and grow? Although they’re only one small part of the answer, when chosen strategically, employee benefits can support your long-term business plans in these areas, helping to future-proof your team and your business.