Making the most of your Employment Benefits
As some of you will know that in addition to my blog, I also work part time in Human Resources. Part of my role is being responsible for employee benefits packages at my place of work. As a Mum, some of the employment benefits I receive with my job have proved invaluable, yet it never ceases to amaze me how some people forget to use them or fail to take full advantage of the benefits that they have.
Here are my tips for family friendly benefits and how to make them work for you.
Annual Leave – quite simply – use it or lose it. Some employers don’t pay for annual leave if it is not taken before the end of the year, whereas others will allow you to ‘roll over’ a set number of days if they are used before a certain deadline. Try to spread your holiday throughout the year to ensure that you have too much left at the end. If school holidays make childcare an issue, some employers also have an option to buy additional days holiday under a flexible benefits scheme.
Parental Leave – Parents of children under the age of 18 have the right to apply for unpaid parental leave. This has to be taken in week blocks and has to be at a time suitable and agreed by your employer. You are entitled to 18 weeks before your child turns 18 (maximum of four weeks per year), therefore your employer is obliged to pass on details of any parental leave to a new employer if you change jobs. Parental leave shouldn’t be confused with emergency leave, such as when your child is unwell or their school is unexpectedly closed. Your employer has the right to ask you to take the latter as unpaid leave or use holiday entitlement/work the time back. The approach on this will vary by employer.
Discount Schemes – many employers offer employee discount schemes whereby you can save money or gain cashback on your common household expenses including supermarkets, high street fashion outlets, or on more expensive items like white goods and mobile phones. It is easy to forget about things like these, but you should ALWAYS check before making a significant purchase as you could save yourself a fortune! Some even offer cashback on gift cards which is great if you buy vouchers for family at Christmas.
Reward Schemes – many employers offer corporate rewards , incentives or bonus schemes for employees to work towards, particularly in sales roles or business development. Make sure you understand the terms of any incentive payments and the targets set so that you can track your progress. There is nothing worse than missing out on a bonus by a few pounds. My partner uses a spreadsheet to track his figures throughout the year, which helps him track when a final push may be required! 🙂
Flexible Working requests – a recent change is that ALL employees now have the right to request flexible working (not just parents and carers), however when returning from maternity leave this is often a consideration for working Mums. Flexible working requests could be anything from working reduced or part time hours, compressed working weeks, working from home, or a job share scenario. Applications need to be made formally and in writing – this template application form covers the key points that you need to consider.
Private Healthcare / Health Cash Plans – although a taxable benefit, many employers offer free or subsidised private medical insurance for their employees, and often these can be extended to cover family too at the employees cost. The prices you will pay via your employer are likely to be MUCH less than you would get offered directly, as the risk is spread across a wider pool of members. In most cases, prices are based on single, couple or family, regardless of the number of children you may have. For most insurers, they have a small window after which a child is born to add on a child to your policy, after which there may be an annual date on which you can make changes.
Childcare Vouchers – There are two types of childcare schemes at present (with a new scheme being recently introduced by the government). Under both schemes (depending on whether you were already part of the ‘old’ system), you can save tax on the money you spend towards childcare costs such as nurseries, childminders and holiday clubs.
Don’t forget that you can even build up vouchers to be used during holiday summer camps rather than spending them every month, something many parents don’t realise. You can learn more about childcare vouchers and how they work here.
Please note – if you are in receipt of tax credits, the online calculator can be used to establish which will be more beneficial for your family.
Shared Parental Leave – if you are having a baby and are the main breadwinner in your family, earn more than your partner, or your partner simply wants to be more involved in the initial months, you may wish to consider Shared Parental Leave, whereby you can share a proportion of your maternity leave with your partner. This relatively new scheme hasn’t had quite the update that was expected but can be an interesting alternative to traditional maternity leave. We recently chatted to local couple Kate & Steve about their experience of Shared Parental Leave and why it worked for them.
Does your employer have any innovative family friendly benefits? If so, I’d love to hear about them!
*This is a collaborative post