Hertfordshire Council cuts unique supplier deals
Hertfordshire County Council negotiates its voluntary benefits direct with suppliers for strategic reasons.
Its voluntary benefits are integrated into its work-life balance initiative rather than standing alone and benefits are only included if they add value to the council’s three work-life policy strands of care, health and life.
Emily Austin, senior HR officer, says: “The advantage of our approach is it is very targeted and very specific. We don’t want to do holiday discounts and discounts [on days out]. Those types of benefit would not be appropriate for us.” For perks like discounted gym membership, the council wanted to offer choice. “It is very important we have a good spread of gyms across the county,” says Austin.
To build up the portfolio of 20 gyms the council currently offers its staff, it had to negotiate deals with single-site providers as well as national chains. “It would be hard for an external provider to match this.”†
But Austin concedes there are disadvantages to the direct approach when it comes to resources, particularly since a major restructuring of the HR function last year means the council is currently without a dedicated member of staff to deal with voluntary benefits. She feels options are not reviewed as regularly as they might be, and that it is easy for communication and monitoring of take-up to be sidelined in a busy HR department.
Austin adds she wouldn’t rule out using a third-party provider in the future, but is still to be convinced that an external provider could meet the council’s very specific requirements at a price it would be willing to pay.