Online flexible benefits on the rise in legal sector

EXCLUSIVE: More than a quarter (26%) of respondents offer online flexible benefits schemes, up from 15% in 2011, according to research by employee benefits organisation Portus Consulting.

Its HR in law employee benefits survey 2013, which took data from 122 legal firms, found that, among the top 100 law firms, the percentage rise was even greater, from 21% in 2011 to 51% in 2013.

More than two-thirds (70%) of respondents said their pension scheme’s eligibility conditions include a waiting period for support staff, while 55% have a waiting period for professional staff. Almost half (45%) of respondents plan to revise eligibility conditions, particularly in line with auto-enrolment legislation.

The research also found that 74% of respondents offer professional staff a salary sacrifice arrangement for their pension scheme, up from 54% in 2011. Slightly less (71%) offer support staff a salary sacrifice arrangement.

The research also found:

  • 70% of respondents offer a private medical insurance (PMI) scheme for professional staff, while 69% offer one to support staff.
  • 67% of respondents allow between 10% and 30% of their employees to work flexibly, up from 48% in 2011.
  • Around half of respondents permit professional staff to take sabbaticals, while 35% permit support staff to take them. This is up from 25% and 10%, respectively, in 2011.
  • Only a third of respondents survey their staff about their employee benefits or level of engagement.

Stuart Gray, chief executive officer of Portus Consulting, said: “Online flexible benefits seem to have come of age. There is a generation of staff firmly established in the workplace that expect to have choice within their benefits package and for all information to be online rather than paper-based.”

Steve Watson, proposition and development director at Portus Consulting, added: “Although 45% of firms have indicated they plan to revise eligibility conditions, given the average time needed to prepare for auto-enrolment and the reality of nearing staging dates, by now we would have expected this figure to be a lot lower.

“Firms should note that, while they can use postponement for a maximum of three months at their staging date (and on an ongoing basis), they cannot apply a waiting period, and any reference to this needs to be removed from their employment contracts.”