Wolseley UK launches flexible benefits

EXCLUSIVE: Heating and plumbing organisation, Wolseley UK, has launched a flexible benefits scheme for the first time.

The scheme, Your Choices, includes dental insurance, a health cash plan, additional life assurance, life assurance for partners and personal accident insurance.

It also includes a flex fund for all 6,200 employees, at 1% of their salary, which can be used to buy additional benefits or taken as cash, or both. 

If employees do not make an active choice for the use of their flex fund, the 1% will be defaulted into their trust-based defined contribution (DC) pension scheme.

Neil McCawley, head of reward, benefits and policy at Wolseley UK, said: “Because we see pensions as important to employees, we’re defaulting the flex fund into the pension, provided they are actually in the scheme.

“If they don’t want it in the pension, they will have to make a conscious decision to make that change, although we suspect the vast majority will let it go into the pension.”

The flexible benefits scheme will take effect from 1 January 2014, and then will be moved to align with the organisation’s financial year, which starts on 1 August.

McCawley added: “We have a short seven-month year, effectively, and then we re-launch again in August.

“We have been thinking about a flexible benefits scheme and planning to do it for a couple of years. It has always been our intention to do it in 2014 or 2015, so the timing has worked out really well for us.

“It’s part of our HR and reward strategy, and to try to differentiate us from our immediate competitors. It is also part of our strategy to retain and attract the highest talent.”

All the benefits in the scheme are new to Wolseley UK, except for the life assurance, which had previously been tied to the pension scheme, and the health cash plan, which had previously been available as a voluntary benefit.

The organisation began communicating the flexible benefits scheme in the spring. In October, it sent out a leaflet to all staff to provide details of the benefits and a reminder that the launch was approaching.

It also held a teleconference, hosted by its managing director, for all line managers.

McCawley added: “We followed that with another leaflet to all branches with a bit more detail about the benefits, but also a wheel that had all the benefits on it and gave a bit of a flavour about what the benefits were.”

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During the last week of October, employees received a booklet with information about the flexible benefits scheme, a five-minute DVD that takes them through the key details, and an information section on the pension scheme.

The flexible benefits scheme is available via an online portal, which is provided by Benefex.