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Flexible Benefits – What They Are and How to Use Them 

Flexible Benefits – What They Are and How to Use Them 

Over the past few decades, lifestyles have become more flexible and people are able to differentiate in their choices about practically everything. This isn’t just a consumer trend: businesses have also become wise to the fact that their employees all have different needs that need to be catered for through flexible benefits.

This has resulted in organisations taking a more individualistic approach to benefit provision.  

In this blog, we explore what flexible benefits are, why they’re a popular choice and how your business can implement and get the most from them. 

What Are Flexible Benefits? 

All organisations provide employee benefits which are usually determined by grade. In most instances, the more senior the role, the more valuable the benefits package. Depending on seniority, core employee benefit packages, where the benefits are paid for by the employer, typically include items like: 

  • company car 
  • holidays 
  • private medical insurance 
  • critical illness cover 
  • long-term health cover 
  • health checks 

In addition, employers also often voluntary benefits like think discounted gym memberships, dental insurance and household or holiday insurance. Employees can choose to take up these products voluntarily, paying for the benefits themselves, usually out of their pay. 

This approach is fine if the core benefits on offer meet every employee’s needs. But what if your employer provides a company car but you don’t drive? Or you’re already covered on your partner’s private medical insurance so you don’t gain any advantage from this benefit? Or you don’t have any dependents but your employer insists on providing life cover any way? 

When benefits aren’t suitable for employees, companies are paying for benefits that aren’t used or they’re providing an unappetising benefit offering to their staff that fails to engage.   

Flexible benefit programmes provide a solution to this problem. Instead of offering standard benefit packages in the usual way, flexible benefit packages enable employees to vary their pay and benefits to meet their personal requirements.  

In most schemes, staff can retain their existing salary while selecting the right mix of benefits for them. Or they can adjust their salary up or down by taking fewer or more benefits.  

Let’s look at some examples to explore how this works: 

  • A single employee rejects the family private medical insurance cover they’re entitled to due to their grade and opts for single cover only – they receive the cost difference in cash 
  • Someone who doesn’t take all their holidays each year chooses to sell five days holiday and uses the saving to take up family private medical cover with the rest taken as cash 
  • An individual who doesn’t drive forgoes the company car benefit and takes the cash instead – they use it to buy more holiday and take up dental insurance and gym membership  

These are just a few examples of the sorts of flexibility flexible benefit schemes can offer. However, not all programmes will be this flexible; some employers decide that their staff must take a certain level of benefits (usually items like life cover or other insurances) as a minimum. And there are other considerations, like minimum pension auto-enrolment contributions, that need to be worked into the scheme. 

How Many Companies Use Flexible Schemes? 

According to Aon, just 12% of employers operate flexible benefit schemes. Which is surprising given research from Willis Towers Watson which shows that: 

  • 66% of employees who are offered choice in their benefits report their benefits meet their needs 
  • 30% of employees who are not offered choice in their benefits report their benefits meet their needs

However, the answer could lie in the perceived challenges associated with setting up and running a flexible benefit scheme.  

What to Consider When Setting Up a Flexible Benefits Programme 

There’s a lot to think about if you want to set up a flexible benefits scheme in your organisation: 

  • Online or paper – this might work for smaller businesses or those where staff don’t have access to computers. Otherwise online options, although more expensive, tend to offer ease of use and greater flexibility. 
  • Choosing benefit options – it’s easiest to transition your existing benefits to a flex scheme before expanding the options available. You’ll need to decide which benefits must be selected or whether you want to allow a more flexible approach. 
  • Keeping schemes up to date – every change in your benefits, tax and legislation must be reflected in your scheme which involves additional work in terms of configuring scheme rules, calculations and systems (if online). 

Although each of these sounds fairly straight forward, flexible benefit schemes can quickly become complex and require technical decision making which requires HR specialist knowledge.  

However, the pay off could well be worth the effort as flexible benefits help organisations stand out in the recruitment marketplace. And they can also be a powerful tool for retention as your benefit package will meet the needs of every segment of your workforce, regardless of life stage.  

There’s a lot to think about if you want to set up a successful flexible benefits scheme, so consider working with a seasoned HR consultant to ensure you deliver legally and secure a great return on your investment. 

For flexible support with all your HR projects, get in touch with Crosse HR on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk. 

 

Menopause – the dirty secret

Menopause – the dirty secret

15.1 million women are at work in the UK. So it’s safe to assume that at some stage in the next 20 or so years those 15.1m women will go through the menopause in the workplace. That’s an awful lot of people who are absolutely guaranteed to go through a fairly seismic shift in their lives.  Learn more about managing the menopause in the workplace and download our free Menopause HR Policy.

Menopause in the Workplace

We hear a lot of talk about millennials and their issues, but consider this, a huge proportion of the workforce at any given time is going through a massive physical and physiological change and no one wants to talk about it much less do anything about it.

99% of businesses in the UK do not even have a menopause in the workplace policy, they have Well-being policies sure but nothing not a jot, iota or mention of what perhaps 10% of their workforce is going through and 50% will face at some stage in their lives.

We all have mothers, sisters, friends, wives, girlfriends, work colleagues, so it’s safe to assume that all of us know someone that is going through this right now – silently, alone and totally ignored.

The average age for women to go through the menopause is 51, (some go through it much earlier, some later), it can last up to 7 years, yes you heard right, 7 long, upsetting, draining, weird years. Symptoms include interrupted sleep, hot flushes, night sweats, night terrors, weight gain, irritability, mood swings, depression, general malaise, brain fog and a lot more I won’t mention – in short, a fairly miserable set of symptoms.

With the skills shortage in the UK we will all have to work a lot longer (up to 70 and beyond) as we have diddly squat in pensions. But yet, not yet halfway through their working lives, a huge proportion of women are going through the hell that is the menopause in the workplace – unsupported.

Do you have a Menopause Policy?

Recently I’ve written a Menopause HR Policy, to help all employers and I mean ALL employers deal with this issue. Include it in your wellbeing policies, have it as a stand-alone, it’s as important as your maternity policy. You can download it below for free. So employers start preparing and start by buying fans!

Download your Free Menopause in the Workplace HR Policy

Menopause

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Also check out www.megsmenopause.comh

Employing older workers – the benefits

Employing older workers – the benefits

With more people living longer, the workforce contains a higher proportion of older workers than ever before. And this demographic trend is only going to continue with one in five of the UK population expected to be 65 or older by 2030.  

With pension pots failing to provide people with the retirement they want, more people are working longer. However, many people over the age of 50 are at risk of leaving the workforce early. And not always because they want to.  

With many businesses struggling to recruit due to high employment rates, it’s time to consider hiring older workers and all the benefits they can bring.  

The Challenges Faced by Older Workers 

Older workers are generally considered to be people over the age of 50. However, in some industries served by younger people – think fashion retail or hospitality – older workers could be thought of as anyone over the age of 35.   

According to the Centre for Ageing Better, staff over 50 face age discrimination when applying for jobs or trying to progress their careers. They are also: 

  • more likely to be stuck in low paid jobs 
  • feel most insecure about losing their jobs 
  • less likely to be offered opportunities for development 

In fact, only 25% of employees aged 50-59 and 22% of those aged 60-69 felt their employer encouraged them to take up learning and development opportunities. This is a significant drop compared to 44% of 18-39 year-olds and 32% of 40-49 year-olds.[Text Wrapping Break] 

With older workers forming an increasing part of the workforce, it’s time for employers to change their perspectives and understand what the over 50s can contribute. 

What They Bring to Your Business  

Older doesn’t mean worse. In fact, many of the UK’s key industries rely on more mature staff. Take farming. The average age of a UK farmer is 59. These people bring years of skill and expertise to their jobs. And the country remains well fed and is able to export meat and other produce because of their work.  

There are plenty of other benefits that come with hiring older employees: 

  • They’re less likely to leave than their younger counterparts – saving you time and money when it comes to recruitment and training. 
  • They’ll understand your ageing customer base better – as the population ages, it’s not only workers but customers who will be getting older. Having employees who are the same age as your customers, who understand their needs and can talk to them on an equal footing will bring major benefits to your business. 
  • Diversity brings additional advantages to your wider team and business – and that includes age diversity. Think fresh perspectives, knowledge sharing, new ideas and improved problem solving. 

There are also benefits to the economy as employing more older workers will contribute to tax revenues offsetting some of the costs associated with an ageing population. If everyone in the UK worked one year longer, GDP would increase by 1%. Which can only be good for the economy and, by proxy, your business.  

Managing Older Workers 

Hiring older workers may be easier in some locations than others due to the demographic makeup of the area in which your business is located.  

Cities tend to have larger populations of younger people whereas older people often move away from urban areas. So, if hiring over 50s sounds like a good option for your firm, you might need HR support to attract and retain the right people. 

But it’s not just recruitment that you’ll need to consider. Think about adjusting your workplace practices to create an age-friendly culture that appeals to all generations.  

A key practice that cuts across all age groups (although for different reasons), is flexible working. For older workers this could mean giving people the opportunity to work from home, condense their hours or work part-time or in job shares. These options will allow them to: 

  • achieve better work-life balance 
  • carry out caring responsibilities 
  • manage health conditions 
  • wind down to retirement 

Making flexible working practices available to all staff is a certain way to engage your people, whatever their age.

For older workers you might also need to consider making changes to: 

  • Work tasks – heavy lifting could be a no-go for some older people but judge this on a case by case basis 
  • Training provision – ensuring everyone in your team is up to speed with how you work will deliver best return on your compensation and benefits investment 
  • Technology – not all over 50s are behind the technology times but you might need to invest in technology training to ensure your latest recruit is up to speed. This could mean introducing formal training sessions or learning on the job by being buddied up with a colleague. 

As skill shortages worsen and the working population ages, hiring older workers will be a necessity for many businesses. The workplace imposes barriers on every individual and all employees, no matter their age, have their individual strengths and weaknesses. Your challenge as a business owner is to find out where your staff need support and where you can make the most of their existing expertise.  

Attract, hire, engage and retain staff of all ages with expert support from Crosse HR. Get in touch today on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk.