Once you have assessed the need for a voucher scheme, the next step is to evaluate the market and see what is on offer. HR, payroll and procurement can all be involved in the purchasing decision, so regular meetings between them during the research process is critical.
Some suppliers offer a fully managed service, whereas other suppliers may require the employer to carry out some part of the administration, for example, collating voucher orders or submitting a voucher order to the provider.
Also, some voucher providers operate on an advice-only basis. In these cases, the employer does all the work of administering the scheme but its appointed adviser keeps it informed of legislative change. Alison Chalmers, director of KiddiVouchers, explains: “While this can be a good compromise, in many cases the cost of an advice-only scheme is very similar to the cost of a fully managed scheme.”
Most providers offer a choice of paper or electronic vouchers. In some cases parents can mix and match, while in other schemes parents have to opt for just one type of voucher. But, with different offerings from a large number of suppliers, it can be difficult to choose between them.
Paul Bartlett, head of employee benefits at Grass Roots Group, advises companies to look for signs of a quality service such as standards ISO 9001 (audited processes) and ISO 27001 (IT security).
“This demonstrates a commitment to processes and security that have an external benchmark,” he says.
Additionally, some childcare voucher providers now offer additional benefits as part of their service.
Laura Czapiewski, product manager for childcare vouchers at Edenred, explains: “For example, Edenred provides all parents who use our childcare vouchers access to a range of special offers and discounts on everyday shopping. The parents also have access to 24/7 confidential advice lines, giving information and support on a wide range of issues that can affect working parents and their families.”
Richard Davies, head of P&MM Employee Benefits, agrees: “The real difference comes from the implementation, management and ongoing support that the supplier is able to offer – the added value. Childcare voucher schemes require continuous review and promotion to ensure that everyone is getting the most out of them. If you appoint a supplier that has a ‘love ’em and leave ’em’ strategy, then the scheme simply will not grow and the benefit will be largely lost.”