Voluntary benefits schemes have advantages for both employers and employees. For employers, they can be a cheap, cost-effective way to offer benefits, particularly if budgets are limited, or they are looking to provide something extra at little additional cost. For employees, voluntary benefits can help stretch their salaries a bit further by offering deals and discounts.
But rather than simply offering access to as wide a range of discounts as possible and hoping employees will find something they like, employers must bear in mind that staff typically look to voluntary benefits plans to obtain deals they cannot get elsewhere.
In many cases, employers offer voluntary benefits alongside core or flexible benefits as part of a wider total reward strategy. This enables them to offer staff a much wider choice of perks. Voluntary schemes are also a good way to offer benefits that may not be as well suited to flex, for example.
This year has seen a change in the most commonly offered voluntary benefits, with retail/leisure discounts leapfrogging gym membership to take the top spot. Retail/leisure vouchers have also been a significant climber, rising from seventh to third place. This year, they are offered by 23% of respondents, up from 20% in 2010 and 17% in 2009. This change may have been driven by the economic climate as employers look for ways to help staff stretch their pay further.
Read more articles on Employee Benefits/Alexander Forbes Benefits Research 2011