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Businesses shore up flexible working commitments for 2022

British businesses are boosting benefits packages such as hybrid working, increased parental leave and private health insurance as a means to attract and retain the best talent, according to new research from premium health insurer Bupa Global.

With a hot labour market increasing competition for recruits and amid the ‘great resignation’,  board-level executives are recognising the value of a diverse talent pool and are now initiating a host of plans to attract the brightest and best.

Central to their plans are to offer greater flexibility in how employees choose to work. Two in five (43%) business leaders surveyed say they consider flexible working to be more important for employee engagement than a competitive salary. Consequently, two in three UK businesses (63%) are already offering hybrid working practices and a further one in five (20%) intend to start in the next year.

Other measures UK businesses plan to introduce to diversify and improve the talent pool include a commitment to virtual working, bringing in blind recruitment, improving accessibility for those with physical disabilities and unlocking ‘parent power’ by increasing paid parental leave.

As the long-term mental health impact of the pandemic is still being calculated, board level executives are also upping mental health and wellbeing resources to help keep employees happy and healthy. A third (35%) say their company already has private medical insurance covering mental health, with a further third (30%) saying they will add it in the coming year.

Budget increases of around 20 per cent in wellbeing support will pay for new roles focused on mental health, upskilling existing HR and management-level staff, paid mental health sick days and private medical insurance with mental health cover.

The employee work life and wellbeing pledges come as UK business leaders recognise the importance of empathetic, inclusive leadership following the pandemic, with the research finding board-level executives now rate integrity, empathy, listening skills and trustworthiness among the most important qualities of a CEO.

Anthony Cabrelli, Managing Director of Bupa Global said: “The labour market is at its tightest for decades, so competition among employers to attract and retain talent is fierce. At the same time, the pandemic has provided an opportunity for businesses to reset, adapt and update the way they operate.

“Parents, carers and those with accessibility issues have often lost out in the jobs market but now businesses are appreciating, possibly for the first time, all they have to offer. Flexibility in the form of hybrid working and the accessibility of homeworking have opened doors to recruit more diverse talent.

“But with challenging times ahead, it’s important that businesses also continue to provide meaningful support for their employees’ physical and mental health. Personalised, digital resources and programmes should be available to employees when and where they need them.”