Flexible benefits

Since life doesn't wait

Wed 25 Jun 2014

You shouldn’t have to wait to make your benefits choices

We live in a 24/7 society, where we can access almost anything we want at any time. It makes sense that as we embrace flexibility in other areas of our lives that the world of employee benefits should be keeping apace to deliver solutions to both employers and employees that meet the demands of our ‘access all hours’ society.

“Anytime Enrolment is really starting to pick up steam now,” explains Tim Brook, Senior Employee and Online Benefits Consultant at Equiniti. “It allows employees to move away from an annual benefits selection window and gives them the opportunity to select their benefits at any time. It gives employees more flexibility, and for employers, it adds another positive factor to working for them.”

Although Anytime Enrolment is growing in popularity within the flexible benefits market, allowing employees to choose their benefits whenever it suits them does present some over-arching challenges. “There are a range of benefits that don’t naturally fit in with an Anytime Enrolment model,” says Tim. “For example, insurance policies where a 12-month commitment is required to a policy; it’s more of a challenge to include these sorts of benefits within Anytime Enrolment.

“In this case, what we would be looking to do is build in a 12-month lockdown period within the flexible benefits package, so unless there are policies and periods that are agreed with the provider, employees wouldn’t be able to cancel those,” he adds.

Anytime Enrolment has been widely available for the past two years, but technological capacity and provider buy-in mean that employers have only recently started taking advantage of it. “The demand for Anytime Enrolment has been there for some time, but there wasn’t the technological capacity within the market to support it,” Tim explains. “On the other hand, Equiniti has been offering Anytime Enrolment to new employees since 2006. So in that regard, we are leading the way.”

Tim and his team are now working with a client to develop the functionality required to secure the risk benefits that can be associated with Anytime Enrolment. “We’re working with a client to develop the functionality around locked-in periods,” he says. “Once the market as a whole conquers this, we will move another step closer to a seamless Anytime Enrolment model.”

Apart from the flexibility Anytime Enrolment gives an employee, there are also a number of other more practical benefits: “As your circumstances change, you can tailor your benefits to suit you,” says Tim. “For example, your employer participates in a Cycle to Work scheme and your own bike gets stolen. You don’t want to have to wait 12 months for a new bike – you would want to buy it at the point that it is needed. That’s where Anytime Enrolment comes into its own and enables you to go and get a new bike straight away.

 “When you find out you are expecting a child, your circumstances undoubtedly change dramatically. With Anytime Enrolment there is the freedom to take up Childcare Vouchers sooner rather than later, which would prove to be hugely beneficial.”

There are also benefits for the employer: “Having Anytime Enrolment flexible benefits gives employees a more compelling product or benefit to working for a particular company, and demonstrates that the employer understands the needs of employees’ flexible lifestyles.” 

As Anytime Enrolment gains a foothold, the next natural step is to house all benefits in one place that is easily accessible for employees. “We are currently working to establish a one-stop-shop in Portal, where employees can manage all of their benefits,” Tim says. “At the moment we have the ESP Portal where people can transact on their shares, we have Shareview, which shows the ordinary shares that we hold, and we have the Flex Portal for making flexible benefits choices. And so what we are trying to do with Portal is bring in an over-arching website linking all of these applications together. Along with that would come a total reward statement and pensions statement that would enable employees to get a really good picture of what their complete package is, working for their company,” Tim says.

“Our benefits portal has huge scope for growth over the next four or five years. It’s something that we are investing heavily in and will continue to add to, which helps to make it constantly more appealing for staff. We are looking at all sorts of elements, spanning from HR services and payroll all the way through to financial education and things outside of the employee sphere in terms of linking personal bank accounts and mortgage information, which would help to make it a one-stop-shop for employees’ full financial planning. There is a significant piece of compliance work to do around this but it is something we are working on. It is an exciting time for flexible benefits.”

 

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