Employees want more flexibility with benefits

In general, benefits are fairly well aligned in terms of supply and demand. The leading benefits are pensions, hospitalisation insurance, meal vouchers and training. Green measures and childcare are rare, and opportunities for working from home could also be improved. The most striking conclusion is that people want greater flexibility. This does not only mean choices and the alignment of benefits with personal circumstances, but also flexibility as to how the bonus is paid out. Finally, it appears that understanding of benefits is lower than it should be. Employees and managers alike appear to be less well-informed than they believe.

These are the main findings of the Great Remuneration Survey by Prof. Xavier Baeten and researcher Bieke Huyst at Vlerick Business School. 1,993 respondents participated in this survey aimed at exploring satisfaction with, knowledge and needs of managers and white-collar workers with regard to benefits as part of the salary package. For Flanders, the survey was conducted in collaboration with media partner De Standaard and for Wallonia with the newspaper La Libre Belgique.

What benefits do Belgian employees get?

The four most common benefits that Belgian employees get are supplementary pensions, hospitalisation insurance, meal vouchers and training. For managers, there are also company cars and mobile phones (or smartphones). It is no coincidence that these are also the benefits that have government tax incentives attached to them, to a greater or lesser degree.

The ‘sustainability’ aspect has not yet made much of an appearance in employee benefit packages. Only 4 out of 10 respondents replied that they receive a bicycle allowance. Initiatives linked to corporate social responsibility (such as voluntary work in a business context) are not popular. In contrast to the popularity of the company car, the company bicycle brings up the rear.

Childcare is not a common benefit either: 13% say that the company offers childcare during school holidays, 8% can count on childminding services if their children are ill and 6% of respondents have access to a company crèche. It is striking, however, that employees are not really clamouring for this either.

In general, ordinary employees have fewer benefits than managers. Only 24% of white-collar workers have a company car as opposed to 68% of managers. A mobile phone is also linked to one’s job title, although insurance is not. Finally, the reward policy depends on the size of the company: smaller companies tend to offer fewer benefits.

What benefits do Belgian employees find important?

Supply and demand are generally well aligned. The top benefits for Belgian employees are hospitalisation insurance, supplementary pensions, training options and flexitime. These are also the benefits that are most often offered by companies.

The benefits often referred to as ‘new age benefits’, such as a gym membership, laundry and ironing services, an on-site shop at work and voluntary work are not particularly popular with Belgian employees. These are also rarely offered. Strangely enough, the same applies to company bicycles.

However, there are also gaps. Above all, there is considerable room for improvement in terms of flexibility, specifically the opportunity to work from home. Only 37% of employees are allowed to work regularly from home, although respondents considered this very important.

The importance of some benefits is linked to age. 36 to 45-year olds attach particular importance to flexible work. Over-45s are predominantly concerned about insurance and pensions.

Company cars are somewhere in the middle. Those who do not have a company car say that they find it a less important benefit than those who do have one. Thus people who do have company cars are reluctant to part with them.

Insufficient flexibility—especially in terms of bonus

The most striking conclusion of the survey is the great demand for more flexibility. On the whole, people are satisfied with the benefits included in their salary package but they would like to have more choice in order to bring their benefits more in line with their personal circumstances. This feeling is stronger among ordinary employees than managers. On the other hand, people appear reluctant to make concessions. Less holiday time in exchange for more benefits was the least popular option. Conceding salary in return for extra holidays or advantages is unpopular as well.

The demand for more flexibility is highest when it comes to payment of the bonus. 49% of managers would like to receive their bonus entirely in cash and with employees the figure is 65%. This means that around half of all employees opt for a mix of supplementary pension and holidays. Managers are more interested in warrants. Nowadays, however, the law prevents far-reaching flexibility.

Xavier Baeten: “A call for greater flexibility is an important signal for the government. A framework needs to be worked on that allows a portion of the bonus to be paid into the supplementary pension, for example, and for this system to be flexible. This means that the tax aspects need to be reworked. Companies that would like to offer more flexible benefits in general tend to limit the options to not much more than the essentials, i.e. salary, pension, mobility and holidays”.

People don’t know as much about benefits as they think they do

Despite respondents saying they were well aware of their benefits, it appears from the survey that they over-estimated their understanding. 22% of respondents did not know whether they had disability insurance. The same applies to life insurance and care leave. It is striking to note that only 1.3% of employees with a company car know how they are taxed for this. On the whole, managers tend to be more convinced that they are well-informed than white-collar workers.

Xavier Baeten: “Knowledge of insurance, and more specifically disability and life insurance, is low. This is mainly because insurers and companies alike communicate in far too technical terms about what they offer. We also see a great disparity between managers and white-collar workers in terms of sources of information. Managers tend to go to the HR department as their first port of call, whereas ordinary employees tend to go to colleagues first, who are sometimes ill-informed themselves.”

Details of the sample

In total 1,993 respondents took part in the survey, of whom 55% were men and 45% women. They were an average of 42 years old and had a higher education degree, and were a mixture of white-collar workers and managers from various sectors of the business world. In terms of remuneration levels, 7% earn less than EUR 1,500 net, 31% between EUR 1,500 and EUR 2,000 and 27% between EUR 2,000 and EUR 2,500. In terms of the size of the company, 24% of respondents work for a company with between 50 and 250 employees. 18% work for a company with between 250 and 1,000 employees, and 41% work for a company with more than 1,000 employees.


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