Staff benefits and allowances 2009: childcare vouchers top the list

Childcare vouchers are the most commonly offered benefit by employers, according to research from Personnel Today‘s paid-for sister service XpertHR.

The survey of 288 organisations – covering a combined workforce of more than 790,000 people – found that they were offered to staff by almost three-quarters of the respondents (74%). Seven in 10 (70%) offered them to all employees.

Childcare vouchers have the added advantage of tax and national insurance savings for employers, and many provide them as part of a salary-sacrifice scheme up to the tax-free limit of £243 a month.

However, their popularity may be affected by a change in legislation, which means employers may be advised to provide them to staff on unpaid maternity leave. Government guidance on this issue is expected later on in the year.

Childcare vouchers are most likely to be provided by public sector organisations, provided by 85.2% of those taking part in this survey. This is in comparison to around three-quarters (73.9%) of private sector organisations, and six in 10 (62%) in manufacturing and production.

One alternative is childcare allowance. However, this doesn’t have any tax benefits and is far less popular among employers, offered by just 4.2% of respondents. The provision of an on-site nursery or crèche is also rare, offered by just 7.3% of organisations.

In terms of pension provision, money-purchase schemes were found to be the most common, offered by more than four in 10 employers (45.1%). This was followed by final salary schemes (44.8%) and stakeholder schemes (41%).

Long-service awards – a traditional way of rewarding staff loyalty – are still popular, provided by almost two-thirds of the organisations (62.8%) surveyed. Voluntary benefits – where employers negotiate discounts on products and services offered by external organisations – were provided by three in 10 respondents (28.1%). Discounts on organisations’ own products and services were a more popular option, offered by four in 10 respondents (37.2%).

The survey also looked at the prevalence of other benefits and allowances, including payments to staff qualified to provide first-aid (made by 49.3% of employers), standby allowances for staff who may be called on to work outside their normal working hours (38.9%), and tool allowances for employees who require specific tools to carry out their work (8.3%).

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