Three questions for employers…

The Family and Childcare Trust’s annual survey has been widely reported in the media and the two headline figures were these: the average cost of a nursery place for a child under two has risen by 33 per cent since 2010; and the costs have risen by five per cent in a single year.

The above should be of no surprise to anyone who has been following the childcare costs story of the last few years. Given that this is a subject that affects millions of working families, expect to see this topic appearing in the 2015 manifestos of the major political parties soon.

However, this article is not specifically about childcare costs, or indeed the government proposals to change one facet of their financial support for working families by replacing childcare vouchers with tax-free childcare in autumn this year. It’s about whether benefit communications to employees do the job they are intended to do.

Several months ago, we received comments was from an individual whose family incurred significant childcare costs each month, who went on to say that childcare vouchers were meaningless, and that he did not bother with them as the financial support they offered was minimal.

Yet the existing childcare voucher system could provide up to £933* worth of saving over a year (£1,866* if both working parents had access to the vouchers), which in turn could fund almost two free months of childcare for his family each year. Or, to put it another way, this is really valuable support that families across the country should be taking advantage of.

But this raises an important question: if this individual had failed to fully understand and appreciate a benefit with such an immediate and real cash benefit value to his family, then what might he think of the rest of the benefits package?

This is a clear case of an employer providing a benefit, but the recipient not really understanding the value of same. Sadly this is not an isolated case. Across the country there are employers spending significant time and money in providing a quality benefits offering. Yet once formalised, the initial and ongoing communication of the package is far from ideal.

So to get the best return on your employee benefits spend, we recommend considering three key questions:

  1. Do all your employees know about, appreciate and understand the employee benefits offering you provide?
  2. Do you regularly communicate the detail of the benefits package to employees (and by communicate we mean explain the uses and values of same)?
  3. Do you use a variety of communication methods to reach all the different demographics within your workforce?

If the answer to any of the above is ‘no’, then there is clear room for improvement. If the answer to all three questions is ‘no’, then we urge urgent action to ensure that both employer and employee get the maximum value from the important employee benefits on offer. 

*depending on individual circumstances