MetLife survey shows a dramatic increase in UAE employees who want customized benefits and are willing to pay for them

Employees in the UAE are increasingly willing to pay for customized benefits, according to new research by MetLife – one of the world’s leading financial services companies.

According to MetLife’s second UAE Employee Benefit Trends Study (EBTS), 62% of employees said they would pay for customized employee benefits compared to 43% in MetLife’s first EBTS in 2014. This highlights an opportunity for employers to build employee engagement and retention around voluntary benefits, and the business opportunity for the insurance industry.

The 2017 EBTS findings, which were revealed at a launch event in Dubai for MetLife’s partners and insurance industry representatives, reveal a dynamic shift in the employee benefits landscape set against the backdrop of a transforming UAE economy. The introduction of mandatory health insurance in the UAE has highlighted the value of employee benefits and pushed them to the top of the employer agenda as employees look for more customized and flexible benefits. Customizing a benefits program around the most acute employee needs, and within a flexible voluntary benefits structure, is a valuable option for employers keen to retain talent and raise productivity.

The economic cycle of the UAE has turned since the 2014 study and even after the introduction of mandatory health insurance, employees are looking for greater job and financial security; they are also actively looking for new career opportunities, higher salaries and more valuable benefits.

In a tighter employment market than 2014, employers also need to retain talent. Benefits can help ensure that employee productivity increases and turnover of staff decreases. In a competitive market, benefits provide an opportunity to build deeper employee engagement – a key success factor in raising productivity.

UAE Employee Benefit Trends Study 2017 highlights:

Among UAE employers

  • 75% agree that benefits enable productivity
  • 82% said that providing a wider array of voluntary benefits is a priority (74% in 2014)
  • 73% believe their responsibility to ensure the health and wellbeing of employees will increase in the next 3-5 years
  • 72% believe tailored optional benefits are a cost-effective way of meeting employees’ diverse needs
  • 79% want to shift costs of customized benefits to employees

Among UAE employees

  • 59% hope to be working for a different employer in the next year (38% in 2014)
  • 66% said employers should provide a wider array of benefits that employees can purchase on their own (compared to 39% in 2014)
  • Employees are more interested in wellness options not yet offered by their employer – including ‘work-life balance’ support (72%), ‘preventative care’ (71%) and ‘stress management’ (70%)

George Dimitriou, Employee Benefits Head of MetLife Middle East & Africa said: “The 2017 UAE Employee Benefit Trends Study demonstrates that increasing and customizing benefits is good for UAE businesses because they are valued by both employees and employers. Enhancing employee engagement to drive productivity is a priority for businesses – and the need for greater financial security is starting to shape workers’ focus.”

Theodor Alexandrescu, General Manager, MetLife Gulf, added: “For UAE employers, there are new opportunities to differentiate, not just with enhanced health offerings but including voluntary benefits for employees built around their personal requirements that go beyond the mandated provisions. We now see a much broader range of benefits possibilities to build deeper employee engagement and our EBTS demonstrates that employers delivering well-designed benefit programs will not only boost engagement and retention of talent, but also raise productivity.”

According to MetLife, the employer opportunity to develop an employee retention strategy is clear: employees are looking for direct employer support to help them deal with financial anxieties, wellness and wellbeing, associated stress, and longer term financial planning for families and retirement/pension, beyond gratuity. Employees are increasingly willing to pay for these benefit add-ons, which may be set-up and managed through the employer; good news for the employer who prefers employees to pay.

MetLife Employer Recommendations

Based on the EBTS findings, MetLife has developed a set of recommendations for UAE employers to build a more effective employee benefits program. These include helping employees plan for financial risks by offering greater financial security for employees and their loved ones; helping employees address their major cause of stress through additional health cover and enhanced provisions for critical illnesses, accidental disability or sickness. Customizing a benefits program around the most acute employee needs, and within a flexible voluntary benefits structure, is clearly a valuable option for employers keen to retain talent and raise productivity.

Click here to download the 2017 UAE Employee Benefit Trends Study.