Bosses rush to comply on age

Employers are removing core healthcare benefits for employees in order to comply with next month’s incoming age discrimination legislation. The Hay Group has axed its annual medical for employees aged over 40, and Elan Computing is no longer offering health screenings to staff over the age of 30 after two years’ service and dental perks for those with two years’ service as core benefits. Both firms have moved these perks into flexible benefits plans to ease in the changes.

The Hay Group management consultancy has included health screening, critical illness insurance and dental benefits in its flex scheme, More than money, which has just been rolled out to its 295 UK employees. It has also raised its retirement age from 60 to 65 years and raised the cap on its income protection scheme from 59.5 years to 65 years. Sarah Molloy, HR officer, said: "People could understand the reasons why we wanted to remove [the annual medical], and the fact that we were replacing it with something else [helped]. There were a few people that weren’t very happy." She added that the move to flex was intended to clarify employees’ benefits entitlement for them. For this reason, it also launched total reward statements. "Hay Group already offered a competitive benefits package.

We offered [perks] flexibly but they all operated independently of each other. Feedback from our annual survey revealed staff were unclear as to their entitlements. People didn’t understand the benefits but now they can go to one site that houses all of them." she said. So far, 80% of staff have logged on to their total reward statements, while 42% have elected to adjust their benefits within the Vebnet-provided flex package.

A further 17%, meanwhile, have taken up the critical illness insurance, and 7% of employees have opted for health screening. Having been forced to make changes in response to the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations, IT recruitment firm Elan Computing will now offer both health screenings and dental care to all of the company’s 400 employees through its flexible benefits package, which is based on grade. Ade Atekoja, compensation and benefits manager, said that the perks had been moved into flex for ease of budgeting and administration purposes. "Rather than limit benefits to certain age groups, we are going to introduce an allowance for employees to spend on [these] benefits. The amount each employee gets will fall into four grades [depending on their seniority]," she added.