Recent data shows that almost four thousand people in Northern Ireland live in poverty.  This figure consists of 110,000 children, 220,000 working-age adults and 40,000 pensioners.

With a high volume of these numbers being working-families, attention throughout Northern Ireland has shifted towards the quality of care and support these employees are receiving within the workplace.

Businesses can help right the wrong of in-work poverty by ensuring their employee benefits scheme – an extra benefit supplementing an employee’s money wage or salary, such as private health care – helps with the cost of living for their lowest paid employees. An income protection plan can add additional security, especially for employees who are the sole financial provider in their household.

It is important that employers recognise the business benefits these schemes can bring, such as increased employee engagement, productivity and performance, as well as having a happier workforce.

Despite the broad variety of benefits often available, low earners prefer and use a very limited number, the reason for this may be due to the way the scheme is communicated.

Earlier this year, a report by The Work Foundation outlined a seven point ‘framework of good practice’ in order to improve the fairness of an employee benefit scheme for low earners:

1.  Securing commitment among business leaders to support the needs of low-earners, using research, stories and case studies to illuminate the challenges they face, and the impact employee benefits can have on their living standards.

2. Building a business case that fully reflects the impact of employee benefits, including acknowledging tangible and intangible benefits and recognising the role employee benefits can play in supporting organisational priorities and challenges.

3. Recognising the distinct needs and preferences of low-earners, and the diversity of the group, in the design, implementation and evaluation of fringe benefit schemes.

4. Providing additional support to inform choice, enable access and demonstrate value, striking the right balance between offering flexibility, while also providing support to enable take-up of those benefits of greatest value.

5. Working collaboratively with third-party suppliers to tailor off-the-shelf products so that they are more closely aligned to the needs and challenges of low-earners.

6. Promoting benefits in a way that reaches and resonates with low-earners, recognising and helping to tackle digital exclusion and a lack of digital skills among some of this group.

7. Monitoring and measuring take-up and impact, to assess how successfully they are meeting their objectives, to refine the approach to improve impact, and to demonstrate their value in driving business performance and supporting low-earners.

If considering adapting or adding to an existing employee benefit scheme, there are a number of group (employee-sponsored) insurance policies that may be suitable, such as Group Life Insurance, Group Income Protection, and Group Private Medical Insurance, to name a few.

The type of cover offered to a company’s employees can depend on a number of factors, and so certain types of group insurance may not be suitable to every business.  It may be beneficial for employers and business owners to seek advice from an employee benefit expert in order to establish the most appropriate.

At Willis Insurance and Risk Management, our Employee Benefits team are skilled in identifying and tailoring the most appropriate cover for businesses from a variety of industries. For further information, or to speak to a member of the team, contact 028 9032 9042, or visit

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