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

Employers use off-the-shelf voluntary benefits packages to enable staff to buy a wide range of discounted services and products.


Although off-the-shelf packages are more mass-market and less tailored to individual workforces than a bespoke package would be, the ready-made versions are an easy option for employers of all sizes and involve minimum administration.

They use web portals that offer employees savings from deals and discounts on services and products. Schemes will typically be branded with an employer’s logo, but will otherwise be fairly generic.

Popular voluntary benefits range from high-street discount vouchers to holidays, gym discounts and family days out.

Employee Benefits’ Benefits Research 2014, published in May 2014, found that gym membership (cited by 34% of respondents) and retail discounts (33%) are the most popular benefits offered in a voluntary scheme.

New technology, such as mobile web-enabled and app-based content, mean more benefits can be bundled into a single off-the-shelf platform and accessed in various ways. 

This is especially useful for employers that have remote and mobile employees, or staff that have limited or no access to computers.

Also, smartphone applications can be downloaded, so employees can access savings wherever they are.

For example, staff can log on to a portal from anywhere using their mobile phone, read more about the benefits on offer and then purchase them via their phone, ring the provider or print out a voucher to use in stores.

Most high-street stores now also accept a quick-response (QR) code, which can be shown and scanned with a mobile device.

Benefits providers say mobile logins now account for most employee traffic on voluntary benefits websites. 

An emerging trend in voluntary benefits platforms is the increasing number of programmes offering cashback on purchases. So employers could review their existing voluntary benefits package and re-energise it by including cashback offers.

Prepaid cashback card schemes can allow staff to save up to 10% on their normal expenditure.

Some voluntary benefits portals will credit the cashback to the user’s account, and this can be put towards further purchases or taken out as cash.

Providers can help employers launch a scheme and provide communications, such as emails or booklets, that can be sent to staff detailing the benefits on offer, as well as helping employees understand the scheme’s features.

Voluntary benefits schemes are popular with organisations that have a broad range of employee demographics because of the wide variety of discounts and offers that can be included. 

Costs to set up a voluntary benefits scheme vary between providers and packages, but usually depend on the number of employees involved.

The market has seen off-the-shelf packages ranging from entry-level schemes with no set-up fees through to those with fees ranging from £1,000 to £3,000 a year, as well as costs per head as low as £1 to £10 a year per employee. 

The facts

What is the benefit?

Off-the-shelf voluntary benefits packages are ready-made schemes that that can be implemented by employers to give staff access to retail offers and discounts via the internet, telephone or brochures.

Where can employers get more information?

Visit the Employee Benefits voluntary benefits channel

Who are the main providers?

ACE European Group, Allsave, Edenred, Fair Care, LogBuy, Love2reward, Next Jump, PeopleValue, Personal Group, P&MM Employee Benefits, Reward Gateway, Sodexo Motivation Solutions, Stormchild Ventures, Vebnet, Wider Plan and Xexec.


73% of employers offer voluntary benefits. (The Benefits Research, published May 2014)

33% of respondents offer retail and leisure discounts (The Benefits Research, published May 2014)