Firms urged to safeguard the financial health of employees

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Employers must act now to support talent with financial wellbeing and protection to remain competitive … reports Asian Lite News

A study among the UAE workforce revealed that most of the workers are worried about their financial stability. 61% of employees are concern about whether or not their salaries will be paid out on time. 47% of the employers stated that they do not have a separate fund for end-of-service benefits.

Zurich International Life (Zurich), part of Zurich Insurance Group, together with YouGov have released the results of newly conducted research exploring policies and practices regarding employee benefits in the UAE.

The two surveys on ‘Workplace Savings’ and ‘Group Life Cover’, in which over 200 employers and 500 employees were interviewed in each survey, provide valuable insights into the need for UAE based employers to place a greater emphasis on protecting the future financial health of employees to help attract and retain talent, factors vital to the future growth and sustainable success of the UAE.

Earlier this month, the UAE government announced several employee-focused reforms that support talent attraction and retention including anti-discrimination protection and new work models such as flexible hours, part-time work and supplementary leaves, among others. The new reforms serve the UAE’s vision to become the go-to destination for individuals to live and work.

Among its many insightful findings, the survey revealed the lack of protection in place to protect employees and their families in the case of a severe medical condition, partial disability, permanent disability or death. In total, almost half of employees claimed they had no income protection provided by their employer, meaning if they were unable to work due to illness, they would go without pay. The survey has shown that only four out of 10 employees claimed to have life cover in place. This means that 60 per cent of employees are not provided with life cover by their employer, meaning that in the case of their death, their families would not be provided for.

The survey further revealed that only a little over half of employers had a separate fund for end-of-service benefits in place. While these employers had created a separate fund for end-of-service benefits, 8 out of 10 employers in this group had dipped into these funds when struggling to make salary payments. 6 out of 10 employees reported concerns over whether their salaries would be paid out on time, further emphasizing the importance of managing end-of-service benefit funds separately.  

The study identified the talent pool is quite dynamic and had access to several work opportunities with more than 50 percent of the surveyed employees have shifted jobs in the past two years. This emphasizes that employers need to invest more in their own employees to retain them and become an employer of choice.

Regarding life insurance, a third of respondents stated the topic had come up in negotiations on benefits with prospective employees. When it comes to communicating insurance benefits to employees, only around a quarter of employers send out an annual reminder on life insurance to their employees, demonstrating a lack of communication around benefits and an opportunity for organizations and businesses to show their commitment to protecting their employees. In the case of pension contributions, the survey showed that very few employers provide it as an employee benefit, suggesting that employers need to do more to protect their employees’ financial future. In terms of financial education, almost 6 out of 10 employers stated that they plan to provide financial wellness support to their employees.

Speaking on the findings of the results, Swarnaleka Vyas, Head of Corporate Life and Pensions at Zurich International Life Middle East said: “Workforce sustainability is essential to the future growth of the UAE. We have seen a growing number of initiatives from the federal level to attract top talent from around the world to deliver their vision for the future and contribute to the economy. As part of the government’s vision to become a world-class hub to attract talents from different parts of the world, the new labour law provides greater flexibility for employees and employers. As an increasing number of expats are laying down roots in the UAE and planning for their financial future, flexible employee benefits will remain points of differentiation and increasingly important bargaining chips in the negotiations between employers and employees.”

Sajeev Nair, Senior Executive Officer at Zurich Workplace Solutions, said: “To complement the governments’ efforts to make the UAE a world-class talent destination, employers must act now in implementing a full range of flexible employee benefits as core to their talent strategy to remain competitive. Employee financial health, end-of-service benefits and protection are foundational elements, complemented by focused efforts towards employee physical, mental and digital well-being. Most importantly, communicating benefits is beyond critical. The so-called ‘Great Resignation’ is a wake-up call to put employees at the core of the workplace. Lest we forget, despite advances in technology and AI, humans are and will be at the heart of the future of work.”

The two surveys were conducted by YouGov at the end of 2021 ­– ‘Workplace Savings’ and ‘Group Life Cover,’ the former consisting of six questions, the latter nine. In total, 203 employers and 502 employees participated totalling 705 respondents. Participants were aged 18 and above.

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