Reading Uni buys EAP with pensions savings

EXCLUSIVE: The University of Reading has used the savings made from introducing a pensions salary sacrifice arrangement to add an employee assistance programme (EAP) to its benefits package.

The salary sacrifice arrangement was added to the university’s three pension schemes from 1 August, and has seen a take-up of 85%. The EAP will be launched in November.

The pension schemes available to the university’s 3,500 staff include the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which is a defined benefit (DB) arrangement, a local DB scheme and a local defined contribution (DC) scheme.

Claire Eckett, HR manager (reward and benefits) at University of Reading, said: “In the DC scheme, there are contributions from each side, but the employers’ contribution will increase with so many years of membership in the scheme, as an incentive of staying in the scheme and encouraging that longer-term saving.”

The university had been looking into offering a pensions salary sacrifice arrangement for some time, but added impetus came from the current funding situation for higher education. It is also making preparations in advance of its July 2013 auto-enrolment staging date.

Additionally, the University of Reading launched a new HR strategy in March 2012, which included a commitment to improve the range of benefits available to staff. Eckett added: “As part of that work, we were looking at how we could maximise our benefits package.”

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The university had already offered a salary sacrifice arrangement on its childcare vouchers. “It is a complicated message to explain to staff, because there is only a limited number that are taking advantage of the childcare vouchers, whereas the pensions affects the vast majority of staff,” said Eckett. “There were people who were not aware what salary sacrifice meant.”

The arrangement was communicated via email, details on the staff intranet, and through letters and booklets sent out to all staff. The university also ran a series of presentations, where staff could have their questions answered.