Matthew Gregson: Refresh flexible benefits frequently

Employers can, in theory, refresh any flexible benefit, but it would not be prudent to change their scheme fundamentally every year.

Organisations should ensure that the big-ticket items they offer employees are right, including holiday, pension scheme and healthcare, and only consider changing these infrequently. It is more appropriate to review add-on benefits, such as dental cover and gyms on a frequent basis.

Employers must be mindful of the fact that changing some benefits may require a change to employees’ terms and conditions, which they may want to avoid.

Again, in theory, anything can change, but that depends on an employer’s legal position and what hoops they would have to jump through to effect the change.

An insurer or benefit provider should always be willing to take on a restructured scheme, but it may place caveats on the range of choice offered each year. For example, employees may be allowed to increase their benefit by only one unit per year.

Insurers are also likely to restrict enrolment opportunities for health and risk benefits in their terms and conditions, but some benefits, such as bikes for work, gyms and childcare, could all have monthly windows, if manageable.

Employees need to be consulted on anything deemed to be a contractual entitlement, which may be trickier to determine than just what’s on a bit of paper.

Ultimately, it is good practice for employers to ensure the flex scheme, range of options and selection of providers remain within the rights of the employer to review, amend and withdraw.

Matthew Gregson is a managing consultant at Thomsons Online Benefits

Read the full Flexible Benefits supplement.