Employee Benefits Awards 2010: Most effective use of a flexible benefits plan (Sponsored by Bluefin)

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Winner
BG Group BG flexible benefits

The judges were impressed with the innovative structure of the oil and gas firm’s scheme around a share incentive plan (Sip). All eligible employees receive an allocation of shares through the Sip, which they can accept or decline as they wish during the annual flex enrolment period. The value of any shares that employees decline is made available to them to spend on other benefits through the flex plan. Even if staff opt to accept their full allocation of shares, they can still take up other benefits via salary sacrifice arrangements. The scheme includes 18 benefits under four main categories: finance and protection, healthcare, leisure and lifestyle.

The scheme, introduced after a global remuneration review, is offered to all UK-contracted staff, many of whom are based overseas on expatriate assignment. It was also designed to ensure it fitted with the overall strategy of being in line with market practice, and was flexible enough to meet local needs across the organisation, despite being set globally.

This international focus created a number of challenges for BG to overcome, particularly around communication, which had to reach employees based across 28 countries. To reach as many employees as possible, the company ran a number of WebEx presentations for expatriates around the world. This ensured they received the same information as UK-based staff, as well as additional details on the tax implications for them as non-tax residents in the UK. These ran alongside more traditional communications methods to raise as much awareness among employees as possible.

BG Group’s approach paid off. It achieved a 99.3% take-up rate for the scheme’s launch – much higher than expected. More than 80% of staff opted to take either all or part of their share allocation. And 69% of those who took their full allocation also took up other benefits, which meant they were happy to sacrifice some of their salary to purchase other perks.

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Azzurri Communications The benefits network (entered by Thomsons Online Benefits)
The managed communications firm was praised for its use of flex as a way of harmonising perks after acquiring 16 companies. It has saved about £100,000 in administration of existing perks and £45,000 a year through offering salary sacrifice.

RUNNERS UP

Amey Choices
When Amey relaunched its flex plan in 2009, one of its aims was to increase employees’ perceived value and take-up of benefits. It achieved a 91% increase in staff taking up a benefit through flex.

Centrica Flexible benefits spending account (FlexSA)
Centrica ensures its scheme supports its green objectives. New options last year included some perks not usually offered through flex.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer Benefits plus (entered by Hargreaves Lansdown)
The law firm introduced flex to link up previously separate elements of its reward. It was one of the first employers to have car salary sacrifice.

3 UK Just rewards (entered by Bluefin)
The mobile phone operator’s core business is linked to its flex scheme. Communication via mobile phones was key to the plans’ launch.

ING Direct Pick and mix (entered by Aon Consulting)
ING Direct continuously refreshes its plan based on staff feedback. Its last enrolment saw a focus on communication and the launch of a tailored private medical insurance plan through flex.

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Subsea 7 Flexible benefits scheme (entered by Bluefin)
The oil and gas firm had three objectives: improving its offering on a cost-neutral or cost-saving basis; boosting engagement and understanding; and using perks to ease head office relocation. It achieved all three.

See full list of winners and finalists for the Employee Benefits Awards 2010