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The trend to offer benefit choice is higher in the UK than in other parts of the world

More than four out of 10 UK employers give employees some form of choice in the benefits they receive, and a quarter of the remainder are also considering doing so, research reveals.

According to a global survey of 1,700 employers by Mercer, the trend to offer benefit choice was notably higher in the UK than in many other countries in Europe and other parts of the world.

Of the number of UK employers offering benefit choice, 28% now provide some flexibility, while 14% offer a considerable amount of flexibility. More than seven out of 10 employers (71%) either have definite plans or are looking into the possibility of providing more choice in future.

Jeffrey Fox, a consultant in Mercer's UK health and benefits business, said: "In the current economic climate, many companies have had to hold back on salary and bonus increases, so are focusing on changes to their benefit programmes to motivate employees. Offering greater choice is one area that is currently popular," he added.

Almost nine out of 10 employers (86%) said the main reason in giving choice was to ‘remain competitive in the marketplace', while the second most popular reason was to ‘increase employees' understanding and appreciation of the value of their benefits' (71%).

Regionally, choice in benefits is currently more common in Europe and North America than in Asia-Pacific or Latin America. But there is also considerable variation within regions, most notably in Europe. Employers in the Netherlands (53%), Spain (44%) and the UK (42%) are the most likely to provide choice, while those in Italy (13%) and Russia (16%) are the least likely.

The UK is currently one of the world's strongest markets for flexible benefit offerings in terms of the popularity and sophistication of benefit programmes introduced.