employee benefits


There’s an old saying that goes: People don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses.

Despite the workforce’s shifting priorities, a maturing millennial generation, and a predominantly expat population from places like the US and EU, companies in the UAE are finding that this rule still applies. Great leadership is always the key for attracting and keeping the best talent.

Today, however, good management is not just about creating a positive atmosphere and providing a stable salary. The best UAE companies are learning that it takes a combination of salary, work environment, and a carefully constructed employee benefits scheme to capture the hearts of the world’s best and brightest. And in the UAE, where the talent deficit is projected to increase from its current levels of 56%, this should be a top priority.

From financial wellness initiatives to work-life balance options like extended paternity leave, here are three of the most sought-after benefits high-calibre talent is looking for in a long-term career choice.

Financial and Physical Health and Wellness Incentives

In a report released by MetLife, a major player in UAE employee benefits, it was shown that improving employee health and wellness is of major importance for 73% of polled companies in the UAE. Companies who cared about their employees’ financial and physical wellbeing—and acted upon this care by providing wellness initiatives—had employees that were very or extremely satisfied with their benefits (66% of respondents) and saw improved productivity from their employees (66%).

While different companies interpret what “health and wellness” includes, several of the top options include:

  • Financial wellness and planning seminars
  • Retirement account matching contributions
  • Health-related discount programs for gym memberships
  • Lowered premiums for meeting preventative health screening goals

Of course, wellness is not a “one-size-fits-all” model, and businesses should be mindful of what their main goal is with these initiatives. Financial wellness programs don't have to be disruptive -- they should compliment your existing benefits programs. Educating employees about how to better manage their money and take advantage of the benefits package they have are key components to their overall success and happiness at work.

Onsite and Holistic Mental Health Care

The 2019 Cigna 360˚ Well-Being Survey recently released statistics showing that over 22% of employees in the UAE are working under “unmanageable levels of stress,” with only six percent ever speaking to a medical professional about it. Because of this, many employers in the region are looking to the trend of providing on-site mental health care. This crucial option is the key for  improving work-life balance and creating happier, more productive workers.

In addition to providing on-site counselling and healthcare initiatives like destressing activities like tai chi or yoga, there are several other elements that a good mental healthcare benefit package should include a clear mental health care and suicide prevention plan including a help line, “mentors” for new employees that can support them during stressful times, and a communication tree that allows employees to honestly and openly share feelings and seek solutions in a judgement-free environment.

Work-Life Balance Strategies

Despite the buzz about flexible working options over the last decade, working remotely isn’t the perfect fix for the deeper issues. According to recent survey by Comparably, 33% of workers say that work-life balance is their number one concern—more important than salary, advancement, or job stability. In addition, Monster Gulf reports that almost 90% of UAE employees believe that a good work-life balance is key to their productivity at work.

The most influential factors include:

  • Flexible hours
  • Leaving work on time
  • Time spent with family

Companies from across the UAE have chimed in to support the value of good work-life balance, especially in the UAE as stress levels increase at all levels of employment. Art Cozad, the CEO of Cigna Insurance Middle East, explained to Arabian Business that this provides an opportunity for employers to step up and provide unique work environments.

“This presents a huge opportunity for employers to step up their workplace wellness efforts. The UAE Government has already taken the lead in this respect through the innovative Happiness Agenda that is setting a benchmark for countries around the world. Following their example, private sector companies can offer practical solutions such as flexi-hours or stress management support through insurance packages that include mental wellness.”

Remote work options are one of the most accessible—and inexpensive—options for even small companies. Still, working from home opportunities are not a magic bullet. Employers need to creatively consider employee benefits that will support talented workers from all walks of life such as flexible time off, extended maternity leave and paternity leave, and product or benchmark-based work arrangements.  


As the workplace diversifies and incoming workers value their families, free time, and health as much as their job, it is vital to give them options that are competitive in the job market. Flexible UAE companies that support good stress management, on-site health care options, financial support and consultation, and a positive work-life balance will be able to attract and retain the best workers.

If you’re interested in having your current employee benefits scheme evaluated, we’d love to help. Speak with one of our advisors today.

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