Home PC savings fuel perks

Hertfordshire County Council plans to expand its range of health benefits and family friendly policies using savings from its recently launched home computing scheme. The local authority, which introduced the discounted computer plan in March, hopes to see significant savings in employer National Insurance contributions that will allow it to extend its voluntary medical and dental benefits and childcare provision such as nurseries and play schemes.

Ann Cobban, human resources manager, strategy, at Hertfordshire County Council, said: "If you get a high volume of employees joining, you can get quite substantial employer National Insurance savings. Our accounts will report to us what those savings are and we, in turn, will bid internally for some of those savings to introduce more benefits."

The organisation was the first local authority to participate in a pilot scheme run by council employment body the Employers’ Organisation, using home computing provider One Call PC. Hertfordshire County Council had previously looked into introducing the salary sacrifice benefit a couple of years ago but had shied away from it because of complications with issues such as the Office of Fair Trading and the Consumer Credit Act. Cobban said once she discovered that there was help available, it made implementing the scheme far easier, particularly with help around communicating it and delivering the machines.

She added that as a public sector body it was essential the benefit was tendered for. However, it was able to undergo a mini-tender, which meant the process was less complicated than it could have been. "Because it’s public money we have to be get the best deal for employees," said Cobban. While the scheme was launched to 10,000 employees at the authority, it has not yet extended the offering to its school-based staff because it was not clear whether teachers’ pay was allowed to be salary sacrificed. Once this issue has been resolved it hopes to make all school staff eligible for a discounted PC.

The plan will be incorporated into the council’s voluntary benefits package that already includes discounted childcare vouchers, discounted gym membership, offers on private medical insurance, critical illness cover and travel insurance as well as a savings scheme.