Top 10 employee benefits at a glance

Richard Branson has bought an island
off the coast of Australia as a reward for staff at his low-cost airline Virgin
Blue. For the rest of us, rewards are normally somewhat more prosaic. Nic Paton
outlines the top 10

1. Cash

The oldest incentive in the book
and, in uncertain times, still one of the most popular. The main downside, of
course, is the expense and the fact that even a small across-the-board increase
can mean a large hit on the books without staff necessarily feeling much

2. Bonuses/performance-related

The advantage of being able to
target increases on the best and brightest has to be weighed carefully against
its potentially divisive effect. Bonuses can also be expensive and, after a
time, lose their impact if staff begin to see them as the norm.

3. Pension scheme

An increasingly rare bird –
particularly final salary schemes – and as such becoming a more important
comp&ben bargaining chip. But the retention and goodwill that comes with
having a good scheme has to be set against its cost.

4. Share schemes

Still a useful way to encourage
employees to take a stake in long-term growth, performance and stability. Firms
also do not have to deduct the cost of options from their income, as they must
with salaries. Main drawback? The stock markets, of course.

5. Health
insurance/corporate healthcare/gym access

Increasingly sought after, despite
the cash injections into the NHS. With absence levels still worryingly high,
and an ageing workforce, being able to offer health benefits can be a useful,
and not overly expensive, retention tool. However, its impact can dissipate
over time, particularly if it doesn’t get used.

6. Company car

Still something of a status symbol,
even if changes in tax rules and environmental concerns mean they have become
less of a financial incentive than they once were. Free car parking spaces and,
in London, paying congestion charge tolls can add to the bill, but also the
feelgood factor.

7. Part-time working

Along with flexi-time, annualised
hours and job sharing, part-time working is becoming more common and accepted.
Once the shift in mentality is there, it’s a case of the administration and
monitoring being effective. Its feelgood effect is also relatively long-term.
Downside is the potential administrative burden.  

8. Homeworking

Becoming ever more popular, either
on an ad hoc or formalised basis. The main advantage is giving employees more
control. Main drawbacks: you have to trust them, get the admin and set-up right
and have to manage them from a distance.

9. Concierge services

Still most commonly a benefit for
people at the top end of the scale, but can be a useful perk and retention
tool. A bit of a fringe benefit, and normally provided as part of a larger
package, so its long-term usefulness is a moot point.

10. Sabbaticals

Useful in providing loyal staff with
a breathing space and a chance to reassess their skills, come back re-energised
and bring a different perspective. Main downside is the prospect they might
realise they don’t want to come back at all and the cost and upheaval of
providing suitable cover.

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