UK - Gartmore Investment Management's flexible benefits package, Gartmore Plus, was introduced last year in a bid to tailor employee benefits more closely to what staff wanted.
The package was born out of a study of benefits and other aspects of the working environment.
Though pensions do not figure among the benefits that can be flexed online, Oliver Chipperfield, Gartmore’s senior HR manager, regards pensions as an integral part of the flexible benefit package.
The core defined benefit scheme is fixed for everyone, but around that are a number of bolt-ons which offer employees choice, and can be viewed online.
“We have an element of flexibility around pensions,” said Chipperfield.
“We have an in-house AVC and an arrangement with Standard Life for an AVC with a monthly or annual contribution.
We have a stakeholder pension for those who qualify, like contractors and for dependants. There is an element of flexibility around that which has proved popular to allow people to increase their pensions.”
Operationally pensions do not form part of the Gartmore Plus website, simply because it would not be economic to set up the software to do it. A paper based system is easier to administer.
Chipperfield judges Gartmore Plus as a big hit with staff on account of the positive feedback he has received.
The two most popular elements are the flexible holiday allowance - holidays can be bought and sold up to a maximum of 40 days’ annual leave - and healthcare, which comes either as a standard package or an enhanced one with no excesses or limitations.
Also on the menu is a private GP service, dental insurance, health screening and a telephone counselling service which can offer advice on matters ranging from work related problems to finding care for elderly relatives. The private GP service has been taken up by three quarters of the company’s 650 employees.
Some benefits do have tax implications. For instance, if you buy holiday you are paid less, and so pay less tax.
Chipperfield says staff have access to more keenly priced products: “We as a company can source benefits, like healthcare or pensions, a lot more cheaply than an individual can.”
Employees can access the Gartmore Plus website from their desks or on the internet at home using a password.
They are allowed to change their package once a year, to take account of pay rises, and they can make changes at the time of a major life change, like marriage or the birth of a child.
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