Question Time: A Christmas quiz

We keep something of a yuletide log of just how clever benefits managers can be, says Debbie Lovewell

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Everyone claims to suffer for their art at one time or another. So with the season of festive fun fast approaching, Employee Benefits put benefits managers under the spotlight with a range of HR-related and general knowledge questions to test the extent of their specialist knowledge and their grip on reality:

Our interviewees: Meet the benefits managers in the spotlight

Ralph Turner, group pensions director at industrial support firm Bramble Industries Julie Bowen, group HR manager at recruitment firm, Ajilon Bill Platt, people person at high street shoe repair company Timpson Brian Newman, HR consultant at venue manager ClearChannel Entertainment Stewart Grant, group benefits manager at media company Emap

1. What is your favourite employee benefit and why?

Ralph Turner (RT): Pensions – they are the most valuable perk.

Julie Bowen (JB): Laithwaite’s wine.

Bill Platt (BP): A final salary pension because it means you’re assured of a decent retirement.

Brian Newman (BN): Personally, I value my annual leave. Travelling is a passion of mine and something I spend my time looking forward to. In fact nothing gets me through a stressful day more than the thought of jetting of to a beautiful part of the world, seeing new things, or just lying back on the beach with a gin and tonic in one hand, and my Blackberry in the other.

Stewart Grant (SG): For me it’s holidays.

2. What is total reward?

RT: An employee’s real value to the firm.

JB: It’s a summary of the organisation’s investment in [staff] benefits portfolios.

BP: Happiness at work, both financially and spiritually.

BN: Total reward is achieving a complete understanding, and successful communication of the total value of the remuneration package, that is to say, employees understanding what working for us is really worth to them. S

G: The total (value) of everything an employee gets for working.

3. What’s the most bizarre thing you’ve done in the name of duty?

RT: I’ve worn a bright red ‘talk to me about share schemes’ sweatshirt. It was the chief executives’ idea.

JB: I dressed up as a hippy, playing a flute, dancing in the park and playing the part of ‘Baby’ in Dirty Dancing’Æ, both of which were then screened to 500 people at the Christmas Awards party!

BP: The most bizarre thing I’ve done is dress up as a shoe care product and walk through the streets of London during the Lord Mayor’s parade.

SG: Having to escort a colleague off work premises, twice – different people.

BN: Total reward is achieving a complete understanding, and successful communication of the total value of the remuneration package, that is to say, employees understanding what working for us is really worth to them.

SG: Having to escort a colleague off work premises, twice – different people.

4. Which three unions are due to merge to form the new superunion?

RT: The electrician’s, boiler makers and GMBU.

JB: Don’t know

BP: Don’t know.

BN: Amicus, T&G and GMB. [CORRECT]

SG: T&G, GMB and Amicus (OK I admit it, I had to look that up)

5. In an ideal world, what would you like to receive as a benefit and why?

RT: Exotic holidays.

JB: More flexible working so I can opt for more time off.

BP: A two week paid-for holiday in an exotic destination each year.

BN: See question 1 – and more of it. If only I had the time to take it. S

G: Beer.

6. What tracks are playing on your Ipod/are your favourite and why?

RT: Free – Alright now JB: Ultravox – Vienna. I’ve loved it for years and never tire of it.

BP: Nat King Cole – Smile. It’s sad and soulful with a positive message.

SG: Albums by Septembre, Linkin Park and Vex Red.

BN: My favourite track is Believe by Cher. It’s a track that can lift my mood whatever is happening. And Cher is an inspiration to me, she’s always fresh, has longevity, knows when to change her approach and doesn’t mind getting a bit of ‘help’ when it’s needed.

7. What does A-Day mean to you?

RT: Pensions panic.

JB: Legislation changing in April next year where you can invest in self-invested personal pensions (Sipps).

SG: More work, but really an opportunity to put pensions at the top of people’s agenda in a good way for at least a little while.

BN: The date when I wake up in the morning and pensions legislation is suddenly crystal clear to me. On a serious note, it is the start of making pensions a personal focus for everyone, and is a much needed overhaul and simplification of pensions legislation in the UK, which should allow greater understanding of the need for long-term financial planning.

8. What’s the best excuse you’ve heard for someone throwing a sickie?

RT: Not many of my staff would do that because they know what I’d do to them, but it was: ‘A tree has blown across my drive and I can’t get the car out’.

JB: They were suffering from guitar (they meant catarrah).

BP: We’ve had our fair share of sick excuses here [but the best has to have been]: ‘I thought I was having a baby, but it was just wind’.

BN: The hamster is ill – no further comment.

SG: Ending up in hospital after playing rugby at the weekend.

9. Can you name two pieces of legislation due to come into effect next year that will impact on benefits?

RT: Pensions Act and Finance Act

JB: Age Discrimination Act and pensions legislation.

BP: No, but I can a piece of [employment] legislation due to come into effect next year. The Noise at Work regulations could impact on benefits by stopping [organisations] having loud parties.

BN: A-day (The Finance and the Pensions Acts), and the potential introduction of age discrimination legislation. Both will have immediate and far reaching effects on how we manage employee benefits.

SG: Pensions simplification and age discrimination laws.

10. What’s the current number one single? (note: these were all correct at the time of interview).

RT: Don’t know.

JB: Sugababes – Push the button.

BP: Westlife – You raise me up. BN: Madonna Hung Up, of course. Another legend – and one who I am seeing in London this week. Now that is a benefit I like.

SG: For Christmas it’ll probably be something dreadful from X Factor or some such drivel (Bah humbug) – but as I write this it’s Madonna