Debi O’Donovan, editor of Employee Benefits: Integration will be the norm as benefits evolve

Normally the world of benefits evolves slowly rather than undergoing rapid revolution. However, for benefits, the landscape is currently reforming apace.

Obviously, next month’s tax and national insurance changes will have a major impact, particularly on the reward packages of high-earners. What will be interesting to see is that what is causing much reworking of reward architecture now, will be the norm in the future, without anyone thinking twice about it.

The European Court of Justice has just ruled that it is illegal to base insurance premiums and annuities on gender. The horror being expressed across the media and social networking sites by consumers and providers alike is probably natural, but it will not be long before we all think it was rather quaint that gender ever entered the equation.

Another aspect of reward that is reaching the tipping point of change is flexible benefits. It is telling when someone like Charlie Johnston, human resources director for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Cisco, says: “We did not want to call it flexible benefits because we felt flexible benefits were fairly old-fashioned.”

We look at this method of benefits delivery in depth in our flexible benefits research, but even as we analysed our respondents’ answers, we were fully aware that to separate core, flexible, salary sacrifice and voluntary benefits into different silos is an out-of-date notion.

Most employers now pick at least two of these and integrate them, as appropriate, across their workforce. Leading online portals have such integration as standard. They have single sign-on, straight-through processing and a ‘hub’ screen where staff can see all aspects of their reward in one place – from payslip and pension to benefits (flexible or not) and discounted products. The days of standalone websites for each benefit and method of delivery are passing into history.

Coupling the tax and legislation changes with improving technology makes for an exciting time for the reward and benefits profession.

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