Buyer’s guide to off-the-shelf voluntary benefits packages

Off-the-shelf voluntary benefits packages, which enable staff to take advantage of a wide range of discounted services and products, have grown in popularity.

Even though they offer less choice than a bespoke package, they can include the most popular voluntary benefits, helping staff to make considerable savings.

Advances in technology have enabled benefits such as childcare vouchers, bikes for work, computers, mobile phones and health cash plans to be bundled onto a single platform and accessed in various ways, such as via an internet site, a benefits booklet or a telephone service.

An off-the-shelf voluntary benefits package can be implemented cost-effectively for both online and offline workers.

Employees are issued with an individual and secure login that provides access to an online benefits portal containing all the deals and offers. An offline version can be made available to staff via a booklet containing details of offers they can access by phone.

An emerging trend in voluntary benefits packages is an increase in the number of programmes and participants using a pre-paid debit card to access shopping discounts. These cards provide cashback as staff spend, allowing them to save up to 10% on normal expenditure.

The use of a debit card that can be loaded via a smartphone application (app) is also becoming popular with staff who previously had to order paper vouchers or codes to get the same savings.

Low cost

Off-the-shelf voluntary benefits packages enable employers of any size to implement new benefits at low cost and with minimal administration. They typically come with a selection of offers and discounts, and will be generically branded to distinguish them from a more bespoke voluntary benefits scheme.

Although an off-the-shelf package can be implemented quite easily by an organisation of any size, its generic nature makes it particularly suitable for smaller and medium-sized employers seeking a cost-effective way to boost their employees’ finances.

Many smaller employers have not been able to give their staff pay rises during the economic downturn, and this type of voluntary benefits platform enables them to offer meaningful perks for a low investment cost.

These schemes are also popular with organisations that have a broad range of employee demographics because of the variety of discounts and offers that can be included, and with employers whose workforce operates in a variety of locations, including remote and mobile workers, and on sites where computer access is limited.

Costs for a voluntary benefits scheme vary between providers and packages, and also depend on the number of employees in an organisation, but the market has seen entry-level products with no setup fee and fees starting from as low as £10 a year per employee.


The facts

What are off-the-shelf voluntary benefits packages?

These are ready-made schemes that give employees access to retail offers and discounts that can be accessed via the internet, telephone or brochure.

Where can employers get more information?

Who are the main providers?

ACE European Group, Asperity Employee Benefits, Benefex, Edenred, Fair Care, Grass Roots, LogBuy, Lorica, Love2reward, Mercer Marsh Benefits, Next Jump, PeopleValue, Personal Group, P&MM Employee Benefits, Sodexo Motivation Solutions, Stormchild Ventures, Thomsons Online Benefits, Vebnet, Wider Plan, You at Work and Xexec.