What are flexible benefits?

Flexible benefits are great for enhancing employee experience as your teams choose the benefits they want, for example comprehensive health cover.

Obviously, employees have individual needs. So a flexible corporate benefits package will always deliver more value than a one-size-fits-all solution.

However, very few flexible benefits schemes are truly flexible. Most of them have mandatory core benefits. If this rings true for your organisation, try increasing the number of optional benefits to make your offering more flexible.

Not only does this give your employees a better experience, but also prevents you from over investing as you're only focusing on the benefits they value.

How does a flexible benefit plan work?

In a flexible benefits plan, employees contribute to the cost of their benefits through a deduction of their income before tax.

Naturally, this could mean employees pay less tax on their income and are essentially reinvesting some of their income into a benefit or scheme that will add value to their lives. 

The costs are fixed by the employer, although people can choose to increase or decrease their salary in line with an increase or decrease in benefits.

Looking to offer flexible benefits at your workplace? Perkbox can help.

But what do these schemes include?

People spend a considerable amount of their income on expenses such as dental procedures, childcare, and train tickets. Flexible benefits aim to reduce the cost of these expenses, to make life a little easier and less stressful.

Here are some examples of what a flexible benefit plan could include:

  • Private health and dental plans
  • Enhanced pension schemes
  • Travel concessions
  • Bicycle loans
  • Season ticket loans
  • Cycle to work schemes
  • Workplace nurseries

Companies offer very different plans. This means it’s important for HR leaders to understand what their employees value, as this will vary between individuals. To remain competitive it's essential to check what other similar companies are offering.

Although the name suggests otherwise, very few flexible benefit schemes are truly flexible — meaning that not every benefit is optional. Most schemes are built on ‘company paid’ benefits, where the employer provides a minimum level of core benefits, which the employee can't remove, at least not for a cash alternative.

pension pot

Choosing the right flexible benefits platform

When choosing a flexible benefits platform, keep in mind that what works well for one company may not be a good fit for you. Every company is unique and the needs of their employees are different. So when you're contacting different benefits providers, make sure your goals are clear. As this will make it easier for them to design a solution that best meets your needs.

For example, do you want to cover all aspects of employee experience? If so, you need a solution that takes care of your employees' mental, physical, and financial wellbeing. In this instance, a global rewards and recognition platform, such as Perkbox is the most cost-effective option. When we designed our platform we wanted to cover all aspects of employee experience, so we could give our customers the best value possible. 

We've also built strong partnerships with retailers worldwide over many years, which puts us in a unique position to offer over 9,000 global discounts and perks. Not to mention our recognition feature, also has a global reach. Employees can show their appreciation by sending personalised messages of recognition. They can even tag each recognition to a company value. Keeping your culture alive wherever they're based.

To learn more about benefits read our helpful employee benefits guide

How to make the most of flexible benefits

To make the most of your flexible benefits you need to monitor them. If you notice a lot of employees are hitting their allowance limits, think about increasing whatever they're redeeming. Alternatively, if another benefit is barely used consider reinvesting in a more popular option.

Employees may also prefer a particular cluster of benefits and perks at work, for example, those that focus on wellbeing. Acting on these trends will help you refine and optimise your offering, so it appeals to as many employees as possible.

Why introduce flexible benefits? 

The advantage of flexible over more traditional benefits is simple — it gives employees more choice, which has several advantages.

1. Increased employee engagement

If you work within HR or are a company leader — there is no doubt that engagement will be one of your top priorities. When you are offering incentives that your employees truly value, your staff are more engaged and productive. Not to mention they are also more likely to speak highly of your company to their friends and family, which is great PR.

2. More flexibility leads to greater engagement

When employees are given more choice over their benefits, they feel thankful for where they work. This leads to highly engaged and loyal teams who are prepared to go the extra mile. People are more likely to work harder when they know their employer is willing to invest in them.

3. Direct cost savings

Although these benefits will require investment, introducing flexible benefits can actually reduce overall company costs.

National Insurance Contributions (NIC) savings can be made through through salary sacrifice schemes or on the purchase of additional holidays. These savings can go towards offsetting the costs of setting up and running the scheme.

4. Keep talent in your organisation

When you offer a highly flexible benefits package, it can dramatically improve employee retention in your company. Employees have a greater appreciation for benefits packages that have a direct impact on their lives both inside and outside of work.

5. A healthier workforce

By offering a selection of health benefits, such as medical insurance, gym memberships, and online GP services, your staff have access to resources that keep them healthy and happy. Health checkups become more accessible and online fitness resources remove barriers to exercise. Both of which can reduce authorised absences and sickness.

6. You become an attractive employer

Flexible benefits attract top talent and help you stand out from competitors. When people are looking for their next role, salary and benefits go hand in hand. Rarely do they consider a new job that doesn't offer something else in addition to a great pay packet.

7. Your benefits stay relevant

By offering everyone the same package of benefits, you run the risk of overinvesting. With flexible benefits packages, you only spend money on the benefits your employees want. This has two obvious advantages, firstly you get a healthy ROI and secondly, it's a great employee experience as employees only choose the benefits they value.

8. It promotes a healthy company culture

Offering flexible benefits demonstrates you see your employees as individuals and this makes for a great company culture. You've taken the time to get to know them on an individual level and have not just invested in a one-size-fits-all approach, which only a few benefit from.

9. Outstanding reputation building

If you've got an outstanding benefits package, good news travels. We've all heard of that search engine start-up that revolutionised employee benefits and perks — and other tech companies that have since followed suit. But if you don't have the funds to deliver an employee experience similar to these companies — few have. You can make money stretch further with flexible benefits.

10. It’s future-proof

When your organisation evolves over the years, flexible benefits can grow with you. If you want to continue to offer the same exceptional employee experience, all you need to do is add another benefit that accommodates this new influx of people. Perhaps you've expanded internationally, if so maybe offering an enhanced global discounts package or a digital reward and recognition scheme would be beneficial.

happy employees shaking hands

Can flexible benefits motivate your workforce?

When you work with your employees to create a flexible benefits program, they feel appreciated. Offering the benefits they see value in shows you respect and value their dedication to your company — which in turn results in a highly motivated workforce. 

Do flexible benefits mean a lower salary?

No, not always. Employees can flex their benefits to meet their own needs and sometimes this does not affect their salary. If a flexible benefit is part of a salary sacrifice scheme, such as cycle to work, an employer must ensure their wages don't dip below minimum wage after deductions. Also, importantly, a salary sacrifice arrangement is an agreement. Employees can opt out and you must adjust their contract accordingly when they do so.

What should be a part of your flexible benefits package?

With that in mind, here are 7 ideas to consider when building your flexible benefits plan.

1. Gym memberships

Being able to exercise close to work or home is important for many people, but gyms and exercise classes can become an extra and unaffordable cost. The wellbeing of your employees should always be a priority. So by offering discounted gym memberships, or an online fitness platform, you are supporting their health.

2. Buying or selling annual leave

Although many companies have a minimum number of days that employees must take as annual leave — as well as the usual maximum. The ability to buy or sell annual leave is a great way to give employees more flexibility and freedom.

Some people need more time off than others. Consequently, offering the option of buying annual leave allows your employees to take a longer break. Or, alternatively, make some money if they want to sell holiday days they won't use.

3. Private medical insurance 

Including private medical insurance on a flexible benefits plan allows everyone to use it — not just directors. As wait times for healthcare have continued to increase just getting an appointment can be a stressful experience — by offering an alternative, businesses can reduce their teams' stress levels, so they can focus more on their wellbeing and work.

4. Private dental insurance 

In recent years it has become more difficult to see dentists on the NHS, and many now choose to see dentists privately. This means that offering dental insurance, which covers routine appointments and additional treatments like fillings or repairs, can be an excellent addition to a flexible benefits plan.

Dental check up

5. Bicycle loans/cycle to work schemes

These are usually offered on a salary-sacrifice basis and offer a loan to buy a new bike and safety accessories at a reduced cost for those who cycle to work. Cycle to work schemes are a win-win. The employer saves on national insurance contributions (if the scheme is offered on a salary-sacrifice basis) and it helps reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

6. Life assurance

Also known as a ‘death-in-service benefit’, this provides a tax-free lump sum to the family of an employee in the case of death. A life assurance policy will usually offer a payment of three or four times salary, but employees may be able to increase this with a flexi scheme.

7. Pension contributions

Of course, employers are now required to enrol employees into a qualifying pension scheme since the introduction of pension auto-enrolment. However, many employers also allow staff to increase their contribution on a salary-sacrifice basis as part of a flexible benefits scheme.

8. Classes and workshops 

One of the most popular benefits to offer is additional qualifications and training opportunities. Offering courses boosts engagement as employees always want to improve their CVs and like a fresh challenge. What's more, enhanced training can also improve productivity, especially when employees are keen to apply their newly learned skills.

9. Workplace nursery

These schemes are a great way of creating more equal opportunities in the workplace. They reduce the cost of childcare from a nursery of the employee’s choice. Payments are taken from the employer, who will then reduce the employee’s salary to match.

10. Budget for creating a healthy home office 

A  solid flexible working policy has several benefits, including improved productivity and enhanced employee wellbeing. Nevertheless, to get the most out of your employees their home environment has to be office-ready — and a decent laptop is the bare minimum. However, offering an additional sum they can put towards a new desk or chair, for example, can make all the difference.

11. Transportation plans

The expenses of travelling from and to work can add up and cause a significant financial strain. So some form of financial help for people who have to commute, for example with season ticket loans can make a real difference to their financial wellbeing

12. Cafeteria plan or lunch budget

Everyone benefits from eating healthy meals throughout the day. So make a nutritious diet easy for your employees, by offering healthy, affordable meals in the canteen that take the stress out of preparing lunches. Alternatively, offering discounts on meal subscription boxes, or on the weekly food shop are excellent ideas too.


Learn more about how Perkbox can help build your benefits offering

Finally, review your offering regularly

To keep your scheme relevant, you need to regularly review and evaluate it. Find out if everyone is getting what they need, or if there are any new benefits they would appreciate.

If you want to know how Perkbox can contribute to your flexible benefits scheme, request a demo, and a member of our team will get back to you.

Flexible benefits: your FAQs answered

Why are flexible benefits important?

One-size-fits-all benefit plans don't suit every employee, people have lots of different needs. One marketing manager may need to prioritise childcare benefits. Whereas another would want to save money on their commute. In these instances, a generic benefits package could increase the risk of losing top talent. If, for instance, one benefit is prioritised over the other.

How can flexible benefits boost motivation?

How does a flexible benefit plan work?

Are flexible benefits taxable?

Get your employee benefits strategy on point

We've put together this guide to give you the tools you need to plan, create and review your very own employee benefits strategy.

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