Employee Benefits/Towers Watson Flexible Benefits Research 2012: Alternatives to flex

Employers continue to be keen on standalone tax-efficient benefits, and interest is growing in total reward statements for employees, says Tynan Barton

The economic climate remains in a state of uncertainty, and it is perhaps because of this that one of the main reasons respondents that have considered implementing flex give for not yet doing so is that the timing was not right for their organisation.

Since this question was first asked in 2009, a significant proportion of employers have always expressed an interest in considering implementing flex at a future date.

Employee Benefits

Around three-quarters (73%) of respondents that do not offer flex offer standalone tax-efficient benefits through salary sacrifice arrangements. This percentage has remained stable for the past three years, indicating that although flex may not be an option for many employers, providing tax-efficient benefits that help their employees’ money go a bit further remains a priority.

Childcare vouchers remain the most popular tax-efficient benefit offered by employers outside of a flex scheme. As in previous years, pensions and bikes for work offered as standalone benefits also rank highly.

Employee Benefits

The proportion of respondents that do not offer total reward statements has fallen from 43% in 2010 to 31% now, indicating that employers recognise the importance of ensuring staff are aware of the total value of their benefits. It is interesting to note that more employers offer total reward statements in paper format only (13%), rather than online or in both formats. One reason for this could be that in many workforces, not all employees have regular access to a computer, so paper statements may be most effective at ensuring everyone receives the same information.

Employee Benefits

Half of employers (51%) that do not operate a flexible benefits scheme offer voluntary benefits. The 29% that do not is a slight improvement on last year’s figure of 31%. There has been a slight increase in the percentage of respondents that say they have considered offering voluntary benefits but the idea was rejected: up from 5% in 2011 to 8% this year.

Back in 2009, only 3% said the notion of voluntary benefits was rejected. This could indicate that employers are more reluctant to expand their benefits offering during the current economic instability.

Of the employers that do not offer flex but do provide voluntary benefits, 57% report take-up of between 10% and 50%.

Employee Benefits

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