Update on recent changes on the .GOV.UK website around the closing date of the childcare voucher scheme

Over the past few days, we’ve been receiving questions regarding this information that has appeared on the government website

Changes to childcare vouchers.png

What does this information mean?

> Your childcare voucher scheme will close to new entrants on 6 April

> The need for working parents to receive a childcare voucher by 5 April is a very different approach to that adopted by HMRC in 2011, where setting up a first order (up to 12 months in advance) by the deadline was all that was required.

What is our view on this information?

As a childcare voucher provider we are concerned that:

> The information on HMRC’s website has changed a number of times and we are still waiting for formal clarification on the above

> There are still no formal guidelines available - ad hoc and often conflicting advice is being given by HMRC, and is changing on a regular basis

> The timing of the announcement leaves a very narrow window for parents to register on the scheme AND receive a voucher by 5 April

> The legislation required to close childcare vouchers is still to be tabled, so the 5 April  2018 deadline may yet change

> In addition to the recent two-hour government debate on the petition to keep childcare vouchers open, the Tax-Free Childcare scheme is currently under a lot of scrutiny - by Parliament, the Treasury Select Committee and the media - as a result of the issues parents are experiencing.

We have contacted HMRC for clarification of this new rule via the Childcare Voucher Providers Association (CVPA), but are still awaiting a response from them.

What next?

It’s important to remember that, as a childcare voucher provider we are here to offer guidance based upon the available facts, but do not have any further information beyond what is stated on the HMRC website.

Based on the information currently available, here is our advice to parents:

> It’s important to get all working parents signed up to childcare vouchers today, so they receive a childcare voucher by 5 April. Once on the scheme they can take their time deciding which scheme is best for them (they can always switch to TFC at a later date).

> All parents who have previously registered for childcare vouchers must receive at least one voucher in every rolling 12-month period. If their eligibility has lapsed i.e. it’s more than 12 months since their last order, they need to receive a voucher before the April deadline.

> Many parents won’t be eligible for TFC and will be better off with childcare vouchers, tax credits or a combination of both. Getting them registered for childcare vouchers is the best way to ensure they can take the time to choose the best solution for them.

We will update you as soon as we know more.

For more information about Tax-Free Childcare, visit www.giveyourselfachoice.com

30,000 reasons employee engagement is more important than ever

Regardless of their contracted hours employees should find their time at work rewarding, challenging and engaging most of the time – if it’s not don’t be surprised if your staff turnover shoots up!

The cost of replacing a key member of staff can be astronomical in comparison to the cost of some small tweaks you can make to your company ethos to ensure you retain them.

30,000.jpg

According to Recruiting Times, it costs the average company over £30,000 to replace a key member of staff - you can lose £5,000 during the recruitment process, and once you’ve found them, you’ll need roughly £25,000 to get them up to speed.[1]

 

So what does employee engagement mean, and why should I care about it?

An engaged employee is someone who is passionate about their work and believes in the company they work for. In short, this means they are enthused about doing their best for the company, but will also embody the brand’s core values, as well as extolling the virtues of the company to anyone who’ll listen. This is not only good for productivity, but also for your bottom line.

Employee engagement is a by-product of job satisfaction, so if your staff turnover is high, this is definitely an area you should look at closely. Ask yourself:

> How many staff have you lost in the last year and what were their reasons for leaving?

- Was it lack of opportunity to move up or around within in the company, or lack of challenges and motivation?

> Do your line managers understand how to retain employees?

> Are your staff willing to ‘go the extra mile’ or do they just turn up, clock in and clock out?
 
> Are your staff happy and satisfied with their roles?

By asking these questions, you should be able to see if your staff are truly engaged.

 

How do you make it happen?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, employee engagement is closely linked with reward and recognition. Do you have processes in place to make sure pay, benefits and recognition are regularly reviewed and fit for purpose? If staff feel they will be rewarded for their hard work, whether monetarily or through a simple ‘well done’ they are much more likely to be engaged.

Having the opportunity to learn and develop is also crucial to engagement. Making sure your staff have access to training can make the difference between someone leaving to find the development they need and sticking where they are.

It’s also important that managers have good leadership skills and know how to successfully motivate and support their teams. A bad manager can wreak havoc on employee engagement, and will always be high on the list of reasons for people leaving a role.

If you’re still unsure if your employees are engaged, ask them! Short surveys, one to ones and employee focus groups can have a really big impact, and may shed light on areas you didn’t know were a problem. These often include things like work-life balance, the ability to work flexibly and employee benefits. For more on how to do this, and measure it, take a look at our blog post from 2016.

Remember: Employee engagement is a mutual relationship. It simultaneously meets the needs of the company to be successful, and the needs of the employee, for whom work should be both satisfying and rewarding.

 

Six_benefits_of_employee_engagement.png

 

[1] http://recruitingtimes.org/news/5316/replacing-staff-costs-businesses-4-1bn-a-year/

Why you should be tailoring your employee benefits to each generation

Look around your office. Is everyone the same age? Does everyone have children? What stage is everyone at in their career? What are their hobbies and interests? 

Even in the smallest offices, it’s obvious that no two people are exactly alike. For this reason, taking a one-size-fits-all approach to employee benefits just isn’t going to work. Taking the time to get to know your workforce and find out what makes them tick will pay huge dividends.

Birds of a feather flock together

While everyone’s different, in our experience administering employee benefits packages, we’ve noticed that quite often people of the same generation or experiencing the same lifestyle trigger (buying a house, getting married, having children…things that don’t necessarily follow age…) tend to go for similar benefits.

Generations.png

How can I tailor my benefits?

Get to know your workforce!

> How old are they?

> How many of them have dependents?

> Do they have a lot of disposable income?

> What do they value most?

> What are their worries?

> Are they comfortable with technology?

To help you get started, I’ve highlighted a few of the main considerations and priorities of the four generations who are still in work:

Baby boomers – 1945-1960

> May need to work into retirement to sustain their desired standard of living

> Their focus is on phased retirement; think part-time roles, non-exec roles and mentoring roles

> Biggest users of financial planning

> Biggest using of education services

> Along with Generation X, they are biggest users of wellness initiatives

Generation X – 1961-1980

> Career active

> Biggest users of flexible working due to raising families

> Value the chance to be part of community volunteer programs

> Biggest users of career development services

> Along with Baby Boomers, they are the biggest users of wellness initiatives - yoga, fitness etc

Millennials/Generation Y – 1981-1995

> Along with baby boomers, they are the biggest users of flexible working

> Appreciate mentoring services

> Value a good work-life balance

> Relish the chance for overseas assignments above financial rewards

> More loyal when they feel supported, appreciated and part of a team

> According to Anthem, 35% of millennials have turned down job offers because they were dissatisfied with the benefits, compared to 27% of all other age categories

Generation Z – Born after 1995

(Generation Z will share a lot of needs with Millennials as well as the following)

> They have the most global awareness

> Will value flexible working to allow them to study

> Will want to access benefits through apps and easy-to-use online platforms

> Are used to technology providing immediate, consistent communication without regard for distance

Okay, so what are the next steps?

> Make sure you ask your employee benefits provider what packages they can offer you. They’re the experts and should be able to suggest a great tailored bundle

> According to Investors in People, 44% of employees said that good benefits were a main consideration when choosing a new employer. So be sure to mention them in your recruitment ads. This rarely gets addressed in job ads but it can quickly set you apart from the competition

> Whilst it’s important to remember that, while generational differences will give you a flavour for the kinds of things that will work, there’s no substitute for good old fashioned feedback. So, even once your tailored benefits are up and running, ask your employees for feedback to ensure you’ve got it right. They’re your quickest and easiest way of measuring your ROI

> Challenge yourself to review your benefits every few months, and don’t be afraid to change anything that isn’t working, as well as building on whatever’s performing well.

Want to know more?

Our employee benefits packages are hugely varied - you can pick and choose as few or as many as you want, as well as build upon them over time - allowing you to truly tailor your offering to your employees’ needs.

Sources:

https://www.recruiter.com/i/what-each-generation-wants-from-employers/

https://www.worldatwork.org/waw/adimLink?id=28411

Flexible working - dispelling the myths

Flexible working is a hot topic at the moment. At a time when 87% of UK employees either work flexibly already or would prefer to, and 95% of firms now offer some form of flexible working, it’s still one of those subjects that employers and employees alike are reluctant to talk about.

Before I get started, I should mention that if you offer flexible working and your employees are fully engaged and motivated, then the things I advise in this blog are probably solutions you're already using. If that's the case, great - keep up the good work! But ask yourself is there nothing about your flexible working policy that could be improved? Be honest. If you think there's room for improvement...read on.

To help start the conversation, I’m going to look at the myths surrounding flexible working, and do my best to dispel them.

I already offer my staff flexible working – what’s the problem?

It’s not enough to just offer a flexible working strategy as a tick box exercise. The vast majority of firms offer flexible working, yet as 77% of flexible workers say they feel ‘trapped’ in their roles, there’s definitely a problem with how it’s being administered.

When re-thinking your approach to flexible working, it makes sense to start at the beginning – the recruitment stage. When advertising roles, make sure you let potential recruits know you offer flexible working and you’ll reap the rewards. According to DigitalMums, three quarters of 18- to 24-year-olds not working are more likely to apply for a job with flexible hours over a standard job.

It’s also important to look at how many requests you’ve received for flexible working and how many have been accepted. Make sure you’re not rejecting requests just because it needs time, effort and a bit of commitment from you to accommodate a flexible working request.

Breaking the taboo

Another thing to consider is to make sure you nurture a culture where staff feel it’s OK to ask for flexible working - DigitalMums recently reported 51% of UK employees think asking for flexible working hours would be viewed negatively by their employer. This reluctance is highest amongst millennials, with 40% saying they’d be too nervous or worried to ask for flexible working hours.

Also, make sure your flexible working policy has moved on from just people with children. According to Timewise’s Flexible Working study, only 3 in 10 people cite childcare as the reason for wanting to work flexibly. Nowadays, flexibility is welcomed across whole employee demographic – by everyone from millennials to mums returning to work to older employees.

At first glance, flexible working might not seem like such a good idea for employers

Allowing employees to set their own hours and come and go as they please has got to be bad for business, right?

Wrong! Studies have shown it’s great for business to give your employees the autonomy to decide their working hours, right down to the time they start and finish work, and where they do their work.

In the main, this is down to the satisfaction and motivation that a flexible working structure gives to the employee. And of course, the happier your workforce, the fewer P45s you’ll have to deal with.

The Balance argues that flexible working can have a number of positive influences, from helping employees meet family needs to increased feeling of personal control over schedule and work environment.

In this article from the Guardian, Natalie Pancheri, HR Policy Adviser at the London School of Economics (LSE) agrees. “The benefits of flexible working are well established, from increased employee engagement to better performance,” she says.

Surely, if people aren’t in the office where I can keep any eye on them, productivity is going to fall off a cliff

Wrong again. A study by Cranfield’s School of Management concluded that flexible workers actually tended to be more productive. According to the report: “only a small proportion of respondents indicated that flexible working had a negative impact on the quantity of work of either the flexible workers themselves or their co-workers.”

One respondent said: “I would say that I am more productive because you get less randomised by people coming to your desk, or just getting caught up in the banter of the office, or that kind of thing. I think it’s just easier and I can be quite focused, and probably productivity is higher I’d say if I work from home.”

It seems like offering flexible working will solve all my company’s problems with recruiting and retaining the best staff!

While flexible working will likely help attract the best talent and ensure they stay with your company for longer, there’s no getting away from the fact that it can be hard work, and a lot of businesses face challenges when adopting flexible working policies. For example, staff are always needed at a certain peak time, which means some requests have to be rejected.

Now and again, flexible working agreements won’t work with certain employees. There needs to be an open dialogue to ensure there is no resentment and the employee doesn’t end up losing motivation.

If you offer flexible working, yet your attrition rate is still high, or productivity is low, the best way to start would be to ask your employees how you can make things better.

It’s also important to remember that employee benefits don’t exist in a vacuum. Having a varied and wide-ranging employee benefits offering is essential in attracting, engaging and retaining the best talent in your industry.

It stands to reason, then, that the companies that grasp the nettle and offer their employees a more flexible approach will thrive, while those that choose to wait to be approached about it will be left behind.

If you’d like to know more about flexible working or employee benefits, get in touch with us at salary-extras@computershare.co.uk

Clarity on the Government’s response to the childcare voucher petition

A big thank you to everyone who signed the petition – we’ve smashed the 100,000 signatures needed and a date (15 January 2018) has now been set for the petition to be debated in parliament.

If you signed the petition, or visited the petition page, you will have seen the government’s response. It pitched TFC against childcare vouchers rather than both schemes running alongside each other, as the petition called for.

The Childcare Voucher Providers Association (CVPA) believes there are some important facts to understand about the benefits of childcare vouchers that parents are set to lose. 

It has been said that TFC is fairer and better targeted than vouchers, but this doesn’t take into account that families would lose all support under TFC if one parent was not in work for any reason this could be an unexpected job loss or having to stop working to look after an elderly relative. With Childcare Vouchers, the family would still receive support where they wouldn’t with TFC via the other working parent.

The average family will be able to claim more support with Childcare Vouchers. Tax-Free Childcare is often said to offer £2,000 of support, but this is based on a family spending a total of £10,000 a year on childcare, with £8,000 out of their own pocket. Most families cannot afford this. In fact, according to the Government’s figures, the average family spends £3,276 on childcare each year. This family would only receive up to £655 of support under TFC but could receive up to £1,866 with Childcare Vouchers.

It is also important to acknowledge that anyone who claimed TFC would lose access to any other working tax credits and universal credit, and these other benefits would still be available to a family using Childcare Vouchers.

It is also sometimes claimed that TFC is “fairer” to single parents, but single parent households could still be worse off with TFC. As a single parent paying standard rate tax would have to spend over £4665 on childcare to be better off with TFC than with Childcare Vouchers. It is precisely instances like this that shows us the importance of keeping both schemes open.

People sometimes think Childcare Vouchers has restricted access, but well over 20 million employees of the 31 million in this country can access vouchers. This includes everyone who works for any public sector body and any large employer. And this number is growing by the day. Even with the threat of closure over 1000 new small and medium sized businesses sign up to join the Childcare Voucher scheme every month.

Hopefully you’ll be able to see why we think it is so important that we keep Childcare Vouchers open.

How to measure the value of employee benefits

Getting an employee benefits programme off the ground can be a big undertaking, so once it’s in place it’s easy to sit back and hope your employees are getting what they need. But just how effective are your employee benefits?

The possible removal of salary sacrifice arrangements means it’s going to be even harder to prove the return on investment in employee benefits. With that in mind, here’s a few tips on how to measure their value.

Why should you be measuring?

Employee benefits are a great way to show your staff you value them. They also provide perks that are a lot easier to instigate than a pay rise. It’s really easy to tailor to your individual workforce’s needs, meaning you get even more bang for your buck.

However, if the tax and National Insurance relief of benefits in kind are removed, it will be harder to prove that employee benefits are worth the investment. In most cases, it’s inevitable that some benefits will have to be dropped. It will therefore be even more crucial for employers to know which benefits are important to their staff, and, in turn, should be renewed.

Seeing the value

Having a clear idea of the value of your employee benefits helps you to meet company targets regarding employee satisfaction and retention. An Employee Insight report conducted by Capita in 2015 stated that ‘66% of staff would be more likely to stay with an employer that offered good benefits’.

2017-10-10_123432.png

If you’re still wondering why you should keep staff then the below infographic should tell you everything you need to know. Unmotivated staff leads to higher attrition, and training new employees can cost in excess of £30k.

If you have a high staff turnover, sickness rate and a work force that seems fed up, then your employee benefits aren’t doing their job. These factors are not only going to drag your profits down, they also all feed into one another, so nipping them in the bud is very important.

Jaz_2.png

What should you be measuring?

Some of the key things to measure are:

Jaz_3.png

How do you measure?

If you want to know whether you’re getting a good return out of your employee benefits programme, then why not ask the users?

If your scheme is falling short of your targets or you simply want to keep making improvements, speak to your staff.

They will be able to tell you what benefits would be appealing. According to The Benefits Research 2014, 41% of companies say they introduce or change benefits based on requests from their employees.

You can get feedback by running surveys, from informal conversations or via appraisals. The most important thing is to keep staff involved.

For an unbeatable level of insight, online benefits platforms like Salary Extras give you the opportunity to track engagement - view log-in numbers, how frequently people are logging in, whether or not they are making selections, etc.

What next?

Now you have your results – it’s time to review your employee benefits offering. Most packages can be renewed annually, but research by Unum shows that over 50% of businesses have not reviewed their packages since 2008. Feedback is crucial to make sure money is spent in the right place. Don’t be afraid to change the range of benefits you offer.

If your employees are getting the best employee benefits then they are unlikely to be looking anywhere else – but that shouldn’t stop you. Staying ahead of the competition and checking out other people’s ideas is also a great way to keep up to date with the latest perks. LinkedIn are a great example of how to shake things up and make waves with your employee benefits, offering everything from educational grants to yoga.

As your business grows and changes, it’s important to review your supplier and how well their service matches your needs. And, as with any other service, it’s important to keep negotiating to ensure you have the best value scheme.

If you haven’t been measuring the value of your employee benefits, then it’s not too late – start now!

Jaz_4.png

What impact will the Autumn Statement have on the future of employee benefits?

What impact will the Autumn Statement have on the future of employee benefits?

On 23 November 2016, Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his 2016 Autumn Statement and with it, significant changes to employee benefits. 

The current salary sacrifice system is seen as “unfair” and from April 2017, the tax benefits that come with using some of these schemes will be scrapped. Over the next six years the move will raise just over £1bn in additional tax for the Government coffers

Read More

Salary Sacrifice consultation - what's the latest?

Salary Sacrifice consultation - what's the latest?

In August, the government announced it was going to hold a consultation on tax efficient benefits. Essentially, the government is considering limiting the range of benefits-in-kind (BiKs) employers can offer, and they've held meetings with interested parties to canvass opinion.

Computershare attended one of these meetings. Find out more about what was said, and what are the next steps.

Read More

Tailor your benefits package to suit the workforce

Tailor your benefits package to suit the workforce

The increasingly digital world is changing the way we all live our lives. We expect choice. We expect convenience. We expect to be able to access services on demand. We expect a personalised experience. And history has looked more kindly on disruptive technology than its critics.

Companies that get this are getting ahead (just look at the controversial taxi-hailing company, Uber), so what can we learn and apply from this to the world of employee benefits?

Read More

Mental health problems are very common in the workplace – so why don’t we talk about it more?

Mental health problems are very common in the workplace – so why don’t we talk about it more?

Mental health problems cost employers £30 billion a year in lost production, recruitment and absence[1]. In the UK, one in four people experience mental health problems each year[2]. You may even know someone who has had or is having difficulty coping at work.

We’re happy to chat about our physical injuries and even illness, but mental health is often considered one step too far. Talking about how we feel at work, whether it’s stress, anxiety or any other mental health concern, is something we just don’t do.

Read More

Better with age: supporting older people in the workplace

Better with age: supporting older people in the workplace

Last month saw the annual celebration of Older People’s Day. Aimed at celebrating the elderly and their achievements, it is a day which holds increasing significance every year, owing to Britain’s ageing population. And while it’s no secret we have an ageing workforce, what challenges and opportunities does this present to HR and Benefits professionals?

Read More