With 6,000 employees across the globe and around a third of them based in the UK, Clifford Chance regularly updates its employee benefits to support staff and stay competitive in the market. It strives to remain ahead of the game and in May 2021 was the first UK-headquartered law firm to offer fertility cover.
Anna Cotgreave has been with the company for 13 years, initially joining as a reward and benefits specialist before being promoted to reward and benefits manager. She became its UK head of reward and benefits in November 2022.
How big is your team?
We have recently grown and there’s now about half a dozen of us in the UK, supporting the global team as required. There’s a mixture of part-time, full-time and fixed-term contract permanent staff. Most of us who are UK facing report to the global head of reward and benefits, who reports into the chief people officer.
What employee benefits do you currently offer?
We have quite a generous array of benefits. This includes free gym membership, pension scheme on-site healthcare, private healthcare scheme, season ticket loan, cycle-to-work scheme, dental plan, international secondments, concierge services, and free meals after a certain time.
We’re competitive with all our benefits and in the market, and law firms are typically very supportive of their employees. Our life cover, for example, is four times salary. We also have self-pay options such as travel insurance and dental insurance.
Some things differentiate us though, including our support for people through key stages in life such as the menopause and having a new baby.
Can you tell us more about your fertility support?
When we first launched with digital health app Peppy we thought we were filling a gap with menopause support and that would be what people would really engage with it for. However, it turned out that they were really interested in the fertility strand and then we realised that perhaps we weren’t supporting them enough. That’s when we increased our private medical coverage to include infertility investigations and fertility support of up to £15,000 per member during their lifetime.
Why do you refresh your benefits offering and which ones do you change?
We don’t necessarily change our core benefits, but the structure of them might change. For example, we amended our private medical cover because of latest medical advice and we’ve changed our gender dysphoria cover to offer options that simply weren’t available in the market 10 years ago.
Another thing we’ve changed is that we now have health screenings for all employees, and once they’ve completed 12 months of service we offer different tests. As medical science has evolved, there are different screenings available. We take advice from experts experts in relation to that.
Three or four years ago we couldn’t offer Peppy as it wasn’t around, and no one was talking about menopause so that support wouldn’t have been available then.
We also offer financial education to employees through Nudge. Again, that wasn’t something available five or so years ago, so we changed our benefits to meet what employees have asked for, but also what’s available in the market.
We now have a bike mechanic on site, and that was introduced in response to employees wanting support with cycling to work.
We additionally introduced a will writing service and a mortgage concierge service due to employee demand. But sometimes people will ask for things which we know are not practical, so we can’t always support or deliver them.
How often do you review your benefits offering?
We regularly keep aware of the benefits that are available in the market to ensure we’re competitive, but in practical terms benefits are typically reviewed on an annual cycle.
On the one hand, they are constantly under review. If something comes to the market, we might consider it, but our core offering, including our pension and our life cover, is not going to change in the medium to long term. But we do take advice from providers and our brokers.
How has your offering changed since the Covid-19 pandemic began?
We recognise that not all support needs to be in person. For example, our GP appointments and health screening can now be done remotely. Additionally, we are now using apps to support our employees. We’ve also come to realise that just because a particular benefit might not impact all employees then that does not mean it cannot add great value. If we want a diverse and inclusive workforce – which we definitely do – then we need to ensure our benefits offering is diverse and inclusive too.
What are your key challenges at the moment?
The cost-of-living crisis is something that’s impacted everyone and so it’s making benefits relevant to employees and ensuring they get value for money.
We offer discounts and benefits through Reward Gateway and it’s a case of promoting the service to make sure employees realise that actually they can save 5% on their weekly shop, which is money they’d already be spending, rather than encouraging them to spend money elsewhere.
The other thing I’ve realised over time is that in order for benefits to be more inclusive, they don’t necessarily need to be ones that everyone will access. They can simply help small groups, rather than be relevant for everybody.
For example, our gender dysphoria cover has only supported a few people, but the positive knock-on effects has been enormous and it’s something that we’re really proud to have done.
Can you tell us a bit more about the gender dysphoria cover?
We launched gender dysphoria cover four years ago, which we thought was market leading at the time. We had a transgender employee working for Clifford Chance who we later discovered was excluded from top surgery because the policy only covered bottom surgery. While we thought our benefit was great, we didn’t realise that actually top surgery was something that was needed and was relevant. So in May 2020, we evolved the benefit to include it and the individual concerned has spoken quite openly about the support that Clifford Chance provided and how life changing it’s been.
We later enhanced the benefit further to include speech therapy and also facial masculinisation and feminisation surgery in May 2022, so it is hopefully now very inclusive.
In what ways are you supporting staff with the cost-of-living crisis?
Promoting the shopping discount service Reward Gateway is a big one because that’s money that people can save on it everyday costs.
We also have a financial education tool, Nudge, so it’s promoting that and enabling people to be smart with money. We also run cost-of-living webinars via Nudge and it’s all about education and support.
How do you make sure that your employees know what benefits are on offer?
We send documents to employees before they join, and also provide information on the intranet. We have a monthly newsletter that lets employees know about inclusion, wellbeing and benefits which we update regularly, for example this month we run a promotion on eye vouchers. While it’s probably not the most exciting benefit, some people didn’t realise they could have free eyecare.
Our managing partner also sends out a weekly email, so if we update a benefit he’ll mentioned that in his weekly email.
Additionally, we have a Yammer site to come, as well using old school posters to promote our EAP and Peppy in the kitchen.
What are your most popular benefits and why?
Core benefits such as pension and healthcare. While they are not going to be the ones that employees get excited about, they do rely on them.
What’s the best employee benefit that you’ve ever had?
It probably is private medical cover. When I had to have surgery after a skiing accident I wouldn’t have been able to get that level of care through the NHS. I needed nerve damage fixed and if I hadn’t had that surgery at that time, I would have lost movement in my arm.
What other HR and benefits challenges are employers facing today?
They’ll be broadly similar to ours, but it depends on the workforce demographic and it’s about recognising what your workforce needs.
Is there anything that government the government can do to help?
There’s been a move to make sure the benefits are more inclusive, but there’s also a drive to think about the wider societal impact. So, looking at benefits from an environmental perspective is something that we hadn’t considered before.
The government could incentivise more ‘green’ benefits, such as assistance for greener fuel options, which will help employees, employers and the government’s emissions target.
It could encourage employers and employees to invest in greener technology in a similar way it does with cycle to work, where there are tax efficient ways of purchasing a bike and cycling to work, and we all know the positive impacts that can have on emissions and wet personal wellbeing. But something like solar panels or air source heat pumps are incredibly expensive to buy, and perhaps there’s a way that the government could introduce a tax-efficient way of doing so through payroll.