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Total reward

What people often get wrong about total reward

The concept of total reward is not felt to be particularly well understood or promoted within maritime, according to a discussion of delegates at Spinnaker’s Maritime HR Conference last month. It was felt that younger employees in particular don’t appreciate the wider package and focus only on the short-term benefits. There were examples discussed of it not being unusual for staff to leave companies for a small increase in salary even when the total reward package is of lower value.

It was widely agreed that this issue is about communication and annual total reward statements were cited as a powerful tool to highlight the full benefits package to individual employees.

Setting pay

Many companies use salary surveys within their business to set pay, with the majority claiming to use more than one survey depending on the types of roles to be benchmarked. The benchmarking process and creation of pay ranges and performance metrics tend to be conducted at the group level, with inflation rates and consumer price indices taken into account locally and additional increases applied where necessary.


Examples of relevant cash and non-cash benefits were discussed, with consideration as to what works well within the industry / individual companies and why. They included:

  • Seafarers’ insurance – with some companies providing insurance for when seafarers are at home as well as when they are on-board.
  • Scholarships – opportunities to support the education for seafarers’ children.
  • Private healthcare for shore-based staff – was quite commonplace, but for employees only.  Extended cover to family members tended to be available only for the most senior staff.
  • Pension – most companies offered the statutory minimum pension benefit only, while some are considering enhancing the benefit for senior staff (the associated cost increase has so far been prohibitive).  Voluntary savings plan for employees were another suggestion, but take-up is often low despite fairly significant set up costs.
  • Flexible benefits – formal schemes did not exist in any of the companies represented in the group. However, some had experience of consulting employees on which company benefits they valued most and made changes (e.g. increased holiday entitlement) as a result.
  • Long-service awards – were found to be very common. One company said they start at 5 years and there is an award for every 5 years thereafter.  Other companies said they had removed the 5 year award because too many employees were achieving it and it was becoming too costly.  One company said their only long-service award was at 25 years.  Cash award, vouchers and traditional gifts (pens, watches and plaques) were all mentioned.  A couple of companies said they allowed employees to choose their own gift up to a specific value (Apple Watches were particularly popular!).
  • Other – it was noted that additional benefits sometimes have to be offered in locations where it is more difficult to recruit.  These include car allowances, sign-on bonuses and schooling benefit.

The session captured the essence of what ‘Employee Reward’ means to individuals and companies. The increase in professional HR support including Compensation & Benefits specialists really is creating opportunities for competitive advantage in people terms.

Amanda James, Compensation & Benefits Consultant, HR Consulting, Spinnaker

If you would like help setting pay (on shore or at sea), learning about other relevant benefits or employee engagement in general, please get in touch with a member of the HR Consulting team via [email protected] or +44(0)1702 481660.

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