Buyer’s guide to off-the-shelf voluntary benefits

Key facts

What are off-the-shelf voluntary benefits packages?

These are prearranged schemes that give employees access to retail offers and discounts. The benefits can be accessed through an online portal, a paper benefits booklet or telephone service. Employees can also purchase reloadable cards for use at various outlets.

Where can employers get more information?

Click here.

Who are the main providers of off-the-shelf voluntary benefits packages?

Asperity Employee Benefits, Benefex, Edenred, Fair Care, Grass Roots, LogBuy, Love2reward, Marsh, Next Jump, PeopleValue, Personal Group, P&MM, Sodexo Motivation Solutions, Stormchild Ventures, Thomsons Online Benefits, Vectis, You at Work and Xexec.


Off-the-shelf voluntary benefits schemes provide a ready-made, cost-effective package of discounts and offers that employees can access in a variety of ways, says Tynan Barton

An off-the-shelf voluntary benefits package enables staff to take advantage of discounts and offers on services and products in high-street shops, supermarkets, travel agents and restaurants, for example.

The benefits can be accessed through an internet site, a benefits booklet or a telephone service, or a combination of these. David Soames, business development director – partnerships in P&MM’s employee benefits division, says: “Not only are employees able to access their benefits online, but they can also access them and gain more benefits through an offline booklet. If they want to go online and access the benefits, they can do that. They can re-order retail vouchers online, purchase reloadable cards online, but conversely, they can find the information in the benefits booklet and pick up the phone.”

In some instances, employees are given a unique username and password, or code, that allows them to access a secure, but generic, website with pre-arranged offers and discounts. A downside to generic sites is that the employer will not receive management statistics and reports of take-up figures, as they would with a more bespoke package.

However, employees can use the perks as they would with any other voluntary benefits scheme. Mark Eaton, director at Personal Group, says the nature of these schemes allows employers to offer benefits when they may not have the resources to implement a bespoke programme. “Off-the-shelf voluntary benefits packages can have a selection of the most popular voluntary benefits,” he says. “It gives them a tick in the box without having to go through the usual strategy planning to actually implement something.”

Cost-effective package

Off-the-shelf schemes are a cost-effective package that employers can introduce at little or no expense to the business. They typically come with a selection of offers and discounts, and will be generically branded to distinguish them from a more bespoke offering. Jeff Fox, head of consulting at Benefex, says: “There is not too much bespoking or tailoring that happens, as it is off the shelf, so employers get something that has already been prearranged and set up.”

Although an off-the-shelf package is easily implemented in any size of organisation, its generic nature means it is best suited to smaller and medium-sized employers looking for a cost-effective way to help employees’ pay go a little further. Lisa Gregory, founder and chief executive officer of Stormchild Ventures, says: “It may not be as tailored as [employers] may want, but they can put in a good scheme where everybody will be able to save money on their everyday shopping.”

Such schemes also suit employers with a range of staff demographics because of the variety of offers that can be included. They also work well for workforces without regular access to a computer, because there are different access methods. Matt Duffy, partnership manager at Lorica, says: “Most offers will have a broad mass appeal, whether you are a graduate, a first-timer in a job, a single mum, or someone who is planning for retirement. There is always something you can access from a wide range of providers.”

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The cost of implementing off-the-shelf voluntary benefits can vary depending on how many staff it involves, the provider, and whether it is online or offline. A typical cost is £5 to £10 per employee.

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