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February 9, 2021

Seven important employee benefit trends for 2021

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Great employee benefits are vital to attract, nurture, and retain a great workforce. But with policies that were considered progressive — like flexible working and enhanced parental pay — now seen as the norm, HR professionals may be left wondering what constitutes great employee benefits in 2021…

To find out, we interviewed trailblazing employers around the world known for their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. From the policies they’re continually improving to the new additions from 2020, they kindly shared the latest employee benefits and policies they wouldn’t be seen without.

Employee benefits to improve

1. Improved flexible working

If your organization didn’t already have flexible working in place before the pandemic, it almost certainly does now. And with reports consistently indicating an increased desire for flexible working arrangements, it’s clear that being ‘open to conversations around flexible working’ is no longer enough — employers should now be leading the conversation.

The trailblazing companies we interviewed went beyond simply offering traditional flexible working options (like adjusted hours and remote working), and have invested in honing benefits that work specifically for their workforce. Early results of such improvements made by Endorsed Employers are reported to be a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce — and those results were taken during a pandemic!

Top flexible working trends

  • A ‘why not’ approach to flexible working:
    While some roles cannot be done remotely, the pandemic is proof that almost all can be adapted to some form of flexibility (such as adjusted working hours, split shifts, or job shares). Of course, implementing these arrangements can be difficult at first and managers must be prepared and empowered to handle such adjustments. However, this is a challenge that leading employers are embracing and already benefiting from.
  • Special flexible days:
    One organization in particular reported an increase in productivity and engagement by simply introducing a range of new flexible days, such as ‘Flexible Fridays’. These are a relatively quick and simple way of offering some form of flexibility to roles that are traditionally exempt from such arrangements! WORK180 itself introduced a nine-day fortnight with great success.


“This year, Gemma (my fellow CEO) and I introduced a nine-day fortnight at WORK180. While our team was already fully flexible — working whenever and wherever works for them — we wanted to ensure everyone had the time they needed to cope with the potential increase in domestic and mental pressures caused by the pandemic. We’ve received great feedback so far and productivity is unimpacted, which is a great ‘silver lining’ from COVID-19 for us. My advice for other employers would be to extend trust to employees from day one.”

Valeria Ignatieva, Co-Founder and CEO of WORK180

  • Flexible holidays:
    It’s undeniable that an investment in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a moral and economic necessity in the workplace, with many talented candidates now considering it an important part of their employer’s offering.

Last year, we saw a number of organizations further proving their commitment to DEI by allowing employees to substitute certain holidays for ones that better resonate with their beliefs and culture. For example, recognizing and respecting people’s discomfort with the celebration of “Australia Day” — which is increasingly recognized as “Invasion Day” — WORK180 now gives our Australian teammates the option to reassign their national day off. Similarly, it’s increasingly common for employees to be allowed to take paid or unpaid leave for holidays of religious or cultural significance.

2. Improved parental leave

While enhanced parental pay for both primary and secondary carers was once a mark of a progressive employer, 2020 made it even more clear that these employee benefits are not enough to truly support a happy, productive, and ultimately profitable team. What’s more, job seekers also know this and are demanding more.

As such, last year saw many leading employers making significant improvements to their parental leave policies. In fact, it was one of the most popular policy updates amongst our Endorsed Employers worldwide. Here are the most common updates:

  • Extending parental leave to fostering and surrogacy:
    Great parental leave policies show respect and a long-term investment in your team members, ensuring they and their families receive the support they need to thrive on their eventual return to work. For these policies to truly work, they must be adapted to support all families, which means considering the needs of same-sex couples, adoptive and foster parents, kinship and surrogacy arrangements.
  • Special parental leave for stillbirth, infant death, and miscarriage:
    While it’s widely recognized as best practice to offer parental leave policies to parents of stillbirth children, an increasing number of employers are also offering specific paid leave for those dealing with the often devastating impact of miscarriage and infant death.

Want to better understand the impact of pregnancy loss in the workplace? We recommend listening to our recent Equality Talks podcast: Pregnancy loss support with Samantha Payne.

  • Improved secondary carer leave:
    Examples of improved secondary carer leave include increasing the amount of paid weeks off and even implementing financial incentives for partners to share the care of their child. As well as improving attrition and attracting new talented team members, such fair and supportive employee benefits are an important step in tackling the damaging gendered views on parental leave.

3. Extended wellbeing benefits

As well as introducing a new illness, the pandemic further amplified employers’ responsibility for the mental health and wellbeing of their workforce. As a result, 2020 saw many leading employers further invest in employee benefits that support their team’s physical, mental, and even financial health. Examples include free yoga and meditation sessions, adding unlimited outpatient treatment to their Employee Assistance Program, and even personal finance training.

“When times are tough, people remember acutely how they have been treated, and for the long-term. For those businesses not being conscious of the importance of focusing on ‘being human’ that means the alienation of a mass of potential customers and people with useful skills and experience they will need in the years to come.”

EAPA UK Chair, Eugene Farrell

Employee benefits to introduce

4. Menopause policy

Last year, menopause started to gain even more momentum as an important workplace issue. More employers therefore began making the necessary changes to retain the talented and experienced team members whose careers could be impacted by the often challenging transition. This includes offering employee benefits to help those directly impacted, as well as flexibility, support, and awareness training to those indirectly impacted, such as colleagues and family members.

To learn more about the positive impact a menopause policy can have on your workplace, read our recent blog: Lessons from employers that are leading the way.

5. Gender affirmation policy

Among those interviewed, one trailblazing Endorsed Employer introduced a dedicated policy for team members who are affirming their gender. This included both flexible working arrangements, up to 10 additional days of paid leave, and the creation of plans and process templates to help ensure a safe and supported affirmation.

For first-hand advice on how to empower transgender people in the workplace, take a look at our insightful and honest interview with Astellas US Technologies’ Ellis Kipper.

6. Domestic violence and abuse policy

Statistics shared by the National Domestic Violence Hotline state that an average of one-in-three women and one-in-four men will experience domestic violence by an intimate partner. And while they also reported a 9% increase in calls due the pandemic, these figures are likely to be conservative; it’s understood that domestic violence (or intimate partner violence) is widely underreported.

Recognizing their moral obligation to protect employees, many organizations are now going beyond their legal responsibilities to actively support victims with a dedicated Domestic Violence and Abuse Policy. In fact, WORK180 saw a 16% increase in Endorsed Employers adopting a DVA policy over the last 12 months.

7. Carer support

Again, the pandemic shed a light on the often hidden home duties that employees have been juggling alongside their careers. This includes caring responsibilities, with around 53 million people undertaking unpaid care at one time. Recognizing the inevitable stress and impact such responsibilities may be having on members of their team, leading employers are introducing greater employee benefits to specifically support these individuals.

Ready to show candidates what you have to offer?

Organizations’ benefits and policies were once kept hidden in a dusty HR draw. Today, top candidates expect to see what an employer has to offer before they even apply for a role. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why around 100,000 women a month use WORK180’s transparent job board to find their next role.

And WORK180 doesn’t just advertise great workplaces for women — we help create them too! To learn more about how we can help your DEI initiatives and raise your company’s profile as an employer of choice, visit our Why WORK180 page today.

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About the Author
Sophie Main is WORK180's Brand and Content Manager, with a background in business improvement and a determination to make the working world a better place. She regularly collaborates with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) experts to create content that will help companies support the careers of all women.

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job.