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Zest’s Ultimate Guide to Flexible Benefits Schemes

Your one-stop shop for everything flexible benefits.

Yep, you guessed it, it’s time for another ultimate guide!

And where better to pick things up than with flexible benefits schemes.

We love flexible employee benefits. They’re the Batman to our Robin, the Wilma to our Fred. In fact, we don’t want to sound like a broken record, but day by day, we live and breathe flexible benefits.

They’re vital for employee engagement, and because we’re championing a new era of employee engagement through our innovative technology, we’d be foolish not to shout from the rooftops about them.

So, settle down. Get comfy. And, if you have a sweet tooth like us, grab the popcorn. It’s time to dive deeper into flexible benefits schemes and how you can tweak your offering to make it effortlessly exceptional, cheerfully collaborative, reassuringly reliable and distinctly different.

What are flexible benefits?

Think less Stretch Armstrong and more pick and mix.

Flexi benefits provide flexibility and save your employees money. They are benefits provided by you to your employees, letting them tailor selections to the things that matter most. Where possible, it also lets them decide how much they want to contribute to certain benefits.

It’s not all about bonuses, discounts and perks (regardless of how amazing they can be). For many, mental, physical and financial wellbeing support is just as important.

In fact, according to our research, 83% of employees are demanding more benefits that contribute to their wellbeing. 55% of 18-34-year-olds regard a good benefits package as the most important thing when searching for a job, with 54% of employees would leave their job if another company offered them a better benefits package.

The proof is sadly in the pudding. Whether your employees are social butterflies, family or financially focused, it’s important to let them decide how they’re supported.

How does a flexible benefits scheme work?

Lights. Camera. Action!

While employees will always see the final product, we knew you’d be interested in seeing what happens behind the scenes. Employee benefits may be an informal collection of different policies, but employers are increasingly formalising their approach and listing their incredible employee benefits offering as a package.

Some benefits are deemed ‘core’, meaning all employees are automatically enrolled and do not have to pay a penny. Others are ‘optional’, ‘voluntary’ or ‘flexible’. This means you provide the flexible framework, such as group policies, and may subsidise the cost, but ultimately the employee can choose to join, increase or decrease core cover. They can also choose to participate in optional scheme (s) and thereby tailor their package to best suit the needs of either themselves or their loved ones.

But wait, there’s more…

Employers can also provide flex benefits that offer allowances.

With an allowance, you can assign each member of staff a budget to spend on benefits they would like to receive. Choose to set rules around appropriate benefits for each pot of money. For example, you might provide an allowance to help employees working from home, their mental or physical health, or their professional development.

Employees can then purchase services relevant to those areas and claim back the costs against their allowance, which HR or your benefits team can approve or decline. Confused? You shouldn’t be. Zest makes implementing a company benefits scheme simple, and with our codeless benefits builder, we can take the complex and make it simple.


What are the advantages of providing a flexible benefits scheme?

While certain benefits are regarded as a core offering, flexible options mean you can negotiate more competitive deals for your workforce, reducing admin.

Take Pensions for example. While your staff will be automatically enrolled should they meet the requirements, employees will have the opportunity to change (flex) how much they want to contribute to fit their needs. Planning for a comfortable retirement is important, and flexible benefits make that possible.

A top tip? Systems such as Zest can show employees the tax and NI impact of different benefits selections before they make their choice.

Woman using Zest's TRS

How to choose which flexible benefits to offer?

Ultimately, this comes down to the core pillars of areas employers want to address.

You have financial benefits (Pensions) and protection (Life Insurance, Critical Illness & Income Protection). You also have wellbeing benefits (Private Medical Insurance & Dental Insurance, Cash plans etc.) and quite often schemes will also be topped up by physical exercise benefits including Gym Membership.

Recently environmental and sustainable benefits have become increasingly popular, with a number of companies looking for offerings that include carbon offsetting. Companies will cover core bases, so legally they must have a Pension, and they will often have some form of life cover too.

Choosing which benefits to offer can also depend on employee demand. Employers will go and look for things that are popular or that employees are asking for. This naturally changes on demographic. For example, if there’s a high number of working parents, they may look for a nursery provider.

What are examples of popular flexible benefits?

Where do we start!

Picture yourself on the set of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. How do you possibly pick which sweet you like best? It’s the same for us with benefits. With great difficulty, we’ve narrowed it down to three examples of company benefits.

Holiday Trading – Your Everlasting Gobstopper

It has and always will be one of the most popular offerings on the market. We’ve seen a huge uptake in employees wanting to buy extra annual leave and you can also make tax and National Insurance savings too.

Pensions – The Wonka Bar

A classic. It’s known to all generations and pretty much everybody has one. Flexing your contributions has become increasingly popular as people look to secure a more comfortable retirement.

Private Medical Insurance – The fizzy lifting drink

Ok, so perhaps only those of a certain age will remember the original Gene Wilder version, but PMI is certainly a benefit giving employees a lift when it comes to healthcare. Increasingly popular, you can upgrade your plan to include family members and benefit from different levels of cover.

Benefit selections naturally depend on each individual’s personal circumstances. For those that love to exercise, Gym Membership is a popular choice. For those that want to do their bit for Mother Earth, Cycling to Work may appeal most.

How to increase employee uptake of flexible benefits?

Picture the scene.

You’ve implemented a brand-spanking new benefits platform. It’s designed perfectly, matches your company branding and it’s easier than pie to navigate. It’s jam-packed with benefits designed for your employees. The only problem is, they just don’t know about it yet. Well, now’s your time to shine and get everyone excited with your new platform. And how do you drum up interest?

The Stock Market approach (Sell. Sell. Sell).

Ok, flexible benefits are different to the trading floors of Wall Street, but if you don’t sell them, how will staff benefit? Start conversations. Encourage internal promotion. Ask managers to lead from the front. Shout from the rooftops before, during and after annual enrolment. Remember, anytime benefits are available 24/7.

Remember, there’s often a big focus on uptake when employers should also be focused on value too. Find out more by reading our Ultimate Guide to Employee Benefits. 

Three people sat next to each other looking at their phones

How to manage your flexible benefits scheme?

Why do all of the hard work when Zest can make it a breeze?

The clunky, one-size-fits-all approach to reward packages is long gone. However you want to implement your flexible benefits platform in the UK, Zest can help. With our innovative technology, you’ll be able to:

  • Create and amend pages using our simple editing tool
  • Personalise imagery, add video and make tweaks to your branded colours/fonts
  • Manage different employer brands from one single system

Zest make the complex simple. You’ll be able to manage your employee benefits schemes quickly and easily. From Devon to Dundee, our system is updated in real-time, which means the benefits data is always accurate and up-to-date. So, it’s bon voyage to manual processes. This time you build the rules.

With Zest you can automate which benefits are available to each employee based on factors like job grade, location, salary or a change in the employee’s circumstances.

What metrics should I be analysing in my flexible benefit scheme?

Well, that’s simple. Start by looking at the amount of log ins you’ve had. That will tell you how employees have taken their first step.

Benefit submissions and uptake is also a wonderful way to measure your metrics. It allows you to see what’s popular, creating stories around what works for certain employees, certain demographics.

For more information on how Zest can help you implement a flexible benefits scheme, click here.

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