Global benefits tech in low-flex regions

After a successful domestic benefits launch, many companies begin thinking about implementation in their other locations. But where do you start? What factors do you need to consider? And why should you expand your offering overseas at all?

Starting with ‘why go global?’ we asked some of our customers to share their reasons for rolling their schemes out into other territories beyond the UK. The main responses focused on four key themes:

  • We had a clear global benefits strategy and branding that we wanted to apply across all locations.
  • The UK had received most of our attention and other locations needed the same focus.
  • Recent global acquisition(s) meant new employees needed to be included in our scheme and culture.
  • Administration was laborious in certain regions, and this was a way of reducing it.

In fact, the key advantages of a global platform echo those of rolling out domestically, namely: extending and harmonising your benefits strategy and communications; giving employees well-earned recognition; and making savings on administration and benefits costs.

Regions with little flexibility: France

There are some territories where this may raise some questions. Let’s take France, for example, where flexible benefits are uncommon and a significant number of employee benefits are mandatory. Although we are seeing an increase in popularity of childcare options, shopping vouchers and discount sites, the benefits provision in France has limited “flexible” benefits. Even with the more rigid mandatory benefits in place, the employee experience can still be considerably enhanced.

France has a three-pillar approach:

  • Social insurance schemes including state pension scheme and the state funded medical provision.
  • Mandatory complementary plans such as the Agirc-Arcco into which employers must contribute taking pension provision to 70% of earnings from the state pension provision of 50%
  • Employer-sponsored schemes like a PERCO (plan d’épargne pour la retraite collectif) supplemental savings

We often find that information on these pillars and individual benefits is scattered between state social security websites, a company intranet and provider pages. As such, employees can have a difficult time understanding what is covered, what options are available and, for example, how to make a claim on health insurance. However, if we were to collate all of the relevant information on all benefits that sit within any of these three pillars, and surface it in a single, easy-to-navigate site, confusion and queries can be reduced, and employees can avoid mistakes and delays in receiving reimbursements.

Taking health cover as an example, when making a claim, an employee will first pay the bill in full themselves then apply for reimbursement. Depending on the treatment, Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie – state-funded medical social insurance – may reimburse up to 80% of the total costs. The rest (or part of it) will then be reimbursed by the employee’s supplemental insurance provided by the employer. In some cases, employees can claim both the state-funded and supplemental amounts directly with their supplemental insurer, who will then collect the social security refund on the employee’s behalf. This complexity highlights the need for clear signposting and accurate information in any employer’s benefits scheme.

While pension, life and savings plans may not be flexible benefits as we would view them in the UK, they do still offer choice to employees. These types of benefits can all have supplemental elements to them which of course require clear communications to employees and administration on an employer’s part, so there are definite advantages to centralising all benefits administration, reporting and communications onto a single platform.

Finally, there are state-mandated benefits such as lunch allowances and reimbursement of commuting costs. These are administratively cumbersome and can cost French HR teams hours in unnecessary time and resource as an online platform can automate most of the administrative and reporting burden.

Centralising your scheme in all regions

Similar kinds of benefits schemes can be found in locations as diverse as Argentina, Italy and South Africa. In some regions, it may look as though the benefits provision alone is quite simple and straight forward, but taking into account the probability that benefits information and access has been dispersed and confusing – or not communicated at all – means those employees have had a much more complex and frustrating experience than necessary. Often, employees are unaware what benefits they have; life insurance, for example, is often undervalued by employees. Centralising the information and making access easy can vastly improve the employee experience and engagement with benefits, especially if you can do it in their local language! Plus, in adding FAQs, local guides and contact details for providers, you can both reduce queries coming to your teams and give employees instant responses.

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Given the substantial impact an online system can have, even in the most rigid of national benefits systems, it is no surprise that we have seen a significant increase in both the interest and implementation of Benefex’s OneHub | Benefits platform, globally. Having clear, concise, well-communicated information is more important now than ever, and a single, centralised platform that enables all employees to quickly and easily access their employee benefits – state-funded or otherwise – opens the door to this vastly improved employee experience, anywhere in the world.

Listen in to Benefex’s global benefits webinars to hear from experts around the industry on topics like global benefits strategy, global communications, and building your business case for global benefits tech.