Buyer’s guide to voluntary benefits platforms

Focus on facts

What are voluntary benefits platforms?
These are IT systems through which staff can access voluntary benefits, ranging from high-street discounts to healthcare and bikes-for-work schemes. Systems are often run by third-party providers and paid for by the employer.

Where can employers learn more?
Read more on voluntary benefits platforms here

Who are the main providers?
Ace European Group, Asperity, Benefex, Edenred, Faircare, Grass Roots, LogBuy, Love2Reward, Marsh, Next Jump, PeopleValue, Personal Group, P&MM, Thomsons Online Benefits, You at Work, Xexec.

Voluntary benefits schemes are a big attraction for employees, especially if they can be accessed easily and efficiently through an interactive online platform, says Clare Bettelley

A voluntary benefits platform enables staff to access a range of products and services to suit their lifestyle needs and stretch their pay. The benefits are typically funded by employees through payroll and can include retail discounts, childcare vouchers, bikes-for-work schemes, health cash plans, loans for travel and car insurance.

One of the key features of a voluntary benefits platform is a discount website. In Employee Benefits/Alexander Forbes Benefits research 2012, published in April, 34% of respondents offered staff access to such a site, which offers discounts at retailers, supermarkets and leisure clubs. The rising popularity of discount websites has been one of the drivers behind a raft of voluntary benefits platform upgrades and developments. Asperity Employee Benefits, for example, has launched a mobile application (app).

Alex Bailey, marketing executive at Asperity, says: “Shopping on a smartphone is a fast-growing trend, so we have implemented this new technology to match the evolution of our user base’s shopping preferences. Mobile shopping lends itself to bargain-hunting in that employees can search for discounts and coupons online on the move, so we knew it was hugely relevant as an addition to an employee discounts platform.”

Get the best out of it

Asperity has also launched a video to educate employees on how to get the best out of their voluntary benefits. This follows an overhaul of its platform, Reward Gateway 4.0, which revolves around the employee rather than the 3,000-plus retailers with which Asperity partners. The platform enables staff to access all their voluntary benefits in one place, rather than having to go to external providers’ sites.

LogBuy has also performed a major overhaul of its website design. Karina Thomsen, director of LogBuy, says: “We had one of the simpler systems until September 2011, when we launched a new solution that allowed us to be a lot more flexible. We work with a lot of flexible providers.”

LogBuy’s platform enables employers to create bespoke page designs, featuring relevant retailers, with costs starting at £2.95 per employee. LogBuy’s technology benefited from a group IT spend of £500,000 last year. Its upgraded site offers cashback with a facility for staff to track the return of their cash.

Meanwhile, voluntary benefits platform provider Benefex partners more than 2,000 retailers and offers over 1,500 discount and cashback offers, enabling employees to tap into the offers through a single access point.
Benefex has spent much of the past year helping employer clients to engage staff with their voluntary benefits platforms. Matt West, chief sales and marketing officer at Benefex, says: “We are trying to make them much more engaging than just pushing pieces of paper across the desk.”

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The provider is now developing its own apps to access platforms. West adds: “Many organisations spend a lot of time developing staff and then these people walk away because they think the grass is greener. Voluntary benefits have a role to play in employee engagement, in terms of cashback and points schemes, which are attractive benefits.”

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