Retailer Hobbs launches flex to staff

Retailer Hobbs launched a flexible benefits scheme to its 900 retail staff and 100 head office employees last month.

The move, which is relatively unusual in the sector, was intended to help with recruitment in a competitive market.

Amit Chowdhury, head of HR and training, said: "We’re led to believe we’re one of the first of our kind to do something like this. We wanted to differentiate ourselves, and to use flex as a recruitment tool. People can see the booklet, and we distribute it to recruitment agencies."

The scheme, which is called Hobbs Choices and is funded by salary sacrifice arrangements, is available to staff in its 94 stores in the UK, Ireland, and Jersey. Benefits offered through the Vebnet-provided scheme include childcare vouchers, a stakeholder pension scheme and dental cover, which were thought to suit the predominantly female workforce.

"There are only three things initially because our thoughts were that we didn’t want to overwhelm people with choice at the beginning. It is said flex is a good retention tool and our staff tend to be loyal. We wanted to acknowledge and reward this," said Chowdhury.

The scheme will run for an initial six-month period until March next year, in order to ensure it is working properly and to give the retailer the opportunity to enhance the benefits it includes.

The firm will also invest its National Insurance (NI) savings gained from offering its salary sacrificed pension scheme into employees’ pension funds. Staff must contribute between 0.5% and 20% to qualify.

Since the launch of flex, employee take-up of the stakeholder scheme has increased.

The flex scheme was communicated to shop floor staff using booklets and a helpline that allowed them to make selections by telephone.

Hobbs has also introduced a voluntary benefits scheme that includes discounted travel, leisure, health and retail benefits.

Jamin Robertson