■ You could be earning more from your job than just a salary
WHETHER you are applying for a new post or wanting to make the most of your current role, it can pay to understand the remuneration package and employee benefit schemes on offer to you.
Many jobs will have benefits or perks which could save you a substantial amount of money and add real value to your basic salary, so it is well worth checking your contract, staff handbook or intranet site to ensure you’re not missing out.
Benefits are more common than you might realise and could include anything from a free eye test if you sit at a computer all day to the opportunity to work more flexible hours, or even be stationed at home.
‘No matter what profession you are in, it is important to check your contract regularly, as some benefits will only be available once you’ve progressed in the company or have shown a considerable length of service,’ says Kirsten Cluer, HR consultant and owner of Cluer HR.
It is also important to have regular meetings with your manager to see if you are eligible for additional benefits for working overtime or performance-based bonus payments for going the extra mile or exceeding targets.
And if there is something missing that you would find beneficial then it never hurts to ask your boss or human resources department, as companies may be more open to suggestion than you realise.
Matt Weston, UK managing director at recruitment specialist Robert Half, says it is also worth checking which benefits you may be required to opt into, such as health care or travel insurance, to make sure you aren’t missing out.
So, just what kind of things do companies offer and how much are they worth?
If you use a computer screen at work then your employer may have to provide you with a free eyesight test — and up to £65 towards spectacles if you need them to read a screen.
Some employers will also offer a range of free, discounted and private health checks and insurances, so it is always worth seeing what is available.
You may be entitled to a free annual health and fitness screening, discounted gym membership or spa treatments, access to private healthcare or dental scheme or physiotherapy at reduced rates.
Life assurance is offered by a number of large firms, meaning your beneficiaries will receive a sum of money in the event of your death. To buy this yourself could cost more than £100 a year, so it is worth having for free.
Discounts and deals
Many employers will negotiate deals with local companies so you can receive discounts just by showing your staff card. This might be a local hairdresser, solicitor or electrician and the discounts often range from five to 50 per cent.
Public sector workers also receive many great deals. For example, some teachers will get ten per cent off at Apple, or free meals, while university lecturers have access to free software at home.
Some of the biggest perks are for NHS staff and military personnel, who have access to a huge range of retail concessions. By signing up to websites such as NHS Discount Offers (nhsdiscountoffers.co.uk) or Health Service Discounts (healthservicediscounts.com), or by downloading the Blue Light Card app, eligible employees can get great money-off deals on food, clothing, furniture, electronics and more.
Meanwhile large firms such as motor retailer Sytner offer high-street vouchers, cheap cinema tickets, low cost hotel rooms and flight discounts.
This is where you can make some great savings, as commuting to work can be expensive whether you use private or public transport. If you drive to work then some employers will offer company cars, or discounted vehicles or even car-pooling rewards.
You may also get a discount on city centre car parks or be eligible for an interest-free loan to help you travel to work. This is usually to encourage you to travel sustainably and can be used for a bus or train season ticket or towards the cost of a bicycle.
It is also worth checking whether you can get a corporate rail season ticket because this could save you hundreds of pounds a year.
For example, Sheffield Hallam University has a deal with Northern where employees can receive 52 weeks of travel for the price of 40 and spread the cost of repayments over ten months, repaid direct from their salary.
The Cycle To Work scheme enables you to hire a bicycle for an agreed length of time and then buy it at a reduced rate. Employees can spend up to £1,000 on bikes and equipment, tax-free, meaning you can save up to 42 per cent on the overall value.
And although ebikes come with a heftier price tag than pedal bikes, there is remittance under the Green Commute Initiative. For example, if an ebike costs you £2,452, as a higher rate taxpayer your net monthly cost would be £79 over 18 months, saving you an impressive £1,030.
Pension and savings
If you are aged between 22 and state pension age and earning a minimum of £10,000 a year you should be automatically enrolled into a workplace pension.
Your employer will have to pay a minimum of two per cent of your qualifying earnings, and this will rise to three per cent in April 2019. There are also financial benefits to be had from joining an Approved Share Scheme or corporate ISA if your employer offers one. If your employer offers you company shares, you could get tax advantages, such as not paying income tax or national insurance on their value.
Tax advantages only apply if the shares are offered through Share Incentive Plans, Save As You Earn, Company Share Option Plans or Enterprise Management Incentives. Your employer can give you up to £3,600 of free shares in any tax year. Find out more at gov.uk/tax-employee-share-schemes.
And if you want to give to charity, some employers offer Payroll Giving schemes. These enable anyone who pays UK income tax to donate on a tax-free basis to charities of their choice. Donations are deducted before tax so each £1 you give will only cost you 80p, and if you are a higher rate taxpayer it will only cost you 60p.
Time and flexibility
Sometimes time and flexibility are more attractive to employees than financial rewards or savings, a trend companies are quickly recognising.
‘When it comes to saving or giving time, companies are looking at key stages in employee’s lives and supporting them with the gift of time,’ says Debra Corey, group reward director at Reward Gateway.
‘These range from the traditional parental leave, family leave and time off for volunteering, to “pawternity” leave (for when you get a puppy), a day off for a child’s first day of school, and even flexible public holidays.’
Your employer may allow you to apply to work from home or change your working pattern to fit around childcare.
Progressive Property co-founder Rob Moore says his 70 employees are given the option of coming into work at 9.20am after the school run, making the time up at the end of the day.
His company also offers a buy-and-sell holiday scheme, where staff can sell their annual leave if they want to earn more money, or buy additional leave if they want more time off.
‘We also allow staff to bring pets into work. So if they haven’t got a dog sitter or they want to bring them in and take them for a walk at lunch time then they can. We have a dog in our Peterborough offices at least once a week,’ he says.
So whether you want a discount at Domino’s or free dental treatment, it is definitely time to give HR a call.
■ Additional holidays/sabbaticals and flexible working hours are seen as the most valued company benefits.
■ More than 18 per cent of men consider themselves very happy with the company benefits they receive, compared to less than 14 per cent of women.
■ Around 29 per cent of Generation Z (18 to 24-year-olds) employees would be tempted to apply for job if they received a £4,000 housing contribution as a company benefit.
■ Millennials (25 to 38-year-olds) saw paid volunteering opportunities and company cars as the least enticing employee benefits commonly on offer.
■ More than ten per cent of Generation Z and millenials would be tempted to apply for a job if a year’s parental leave was a perk.