Companies woo staff with offers of flexible benefits

Employees are backing companies that let them choose the benefits they want, according to data from the Industrial Society.

The research found the number of flexible benefits schemes has doubled in the past four years as firms adopt new strategies to retain staff. Nine out of 10 of the firms reported that staff are “very keen” to have some choice about what benefits they have.

Cadbury, PricewaterhouseCooper and Alcatel Telecom have all successfully introduced the schemes recently. Jan Johnston, benefits development manager for Cadbury, said staff were cautious and cynical at first, but take-up has improved.

PricewaterhouseCooper also found staff sceptical initially about the benefits, but by late last year they were much more positive. The company said its key message had been that employees needed more time to understand how flexible benefits work.

The benefits most often offered are healthcare, extra holidays and company cars. But some companies include life or medical insurance, share options, childcare vouchers and gym membership.

On the downside, more than half the respondents said flexible benefits schemes are costly to administer, and some said they are difficult to manage. Nearly one in four said their employees would rather be paid more.

Christine Garner, IS head of organisational development, said: “They are a way of increasing employees’ satisfaction, and also of getting the best results.”

By Kathy Watson

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