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Employee benefits packages, are we getting a good deal?

“According to a new report commissioned by Unum, today’s employees are more likely to fall into financial difficulty than they were 30 years ago. The report suggests that this is partly owing to the fact that employee benefits – designed to provide financial protection – have failed to keep pace with the changing UK workforce which is now more feminised, older and includes more disabled and long-term ill” Mumsnet, May 2013 

Umum employee benefits

As part of the collaboration by Mumsnet and Unum, I’ve been challenged to #askHR about the employer provided benefits which I am currently entitled to and to decide whether this package of benefits suits my needs as a modern worker.

The report suggests that Mothers and those who are responsible for looking after children are in one of three groups that are most at financial risk with employer benefits packages that are not fit for purpose.

I’m currently on maternity leave from my role as a Senior Human Resources Officer within an Academy in the West Midlands. I’ve worked for my employer since February 2009 and have previous local government continuous service. My pay and terms and conditions of employment are very similar to many local government services’ workers as set out by the National Joint Council for Local Government Services.

As part of my employment contract I am entitled to a range of benefits. These include annual leave, sickness pay scheme, access to the Local Government Pension Scheme, work life support, opportunity to use and pay into a childcare vouchers scheme and financial support for eye tests.

On my return to work, I’ll be entitled to request emergency time off for dependants should Little Mr ever be poorly and also parental leave should I need more than one continuous week off to care for my child. Both types of leave are unpaid but do not affect my continuous service.

The sickness pay scheme is linked to my continuous service with my employer and due to my length of service I am entitled to full pay for a certain number of days reducing to a period of half pay after this lapses. This is a very generous sick pay scheme and would allow me to take the time to recover from an unexpected illness or injury (touch wood this won’t ever happen as I like to think I’m relatively healthy but it’s nice to know just in case.) Should I fall ill or be absent from work for a pro-longed length of time, my employer has access to an Occupational Health service who would support the early diagnosis of any health problems and would provide ideas and support for getting me back into the workplace.

I pay into the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) as it has a number of benefits for me. Currently I pay 6.5% of my monthly salary (based on my contractual hours) to the LGPS whilst my employer pays the balance of the cost of providing the benefits in the LGPS. This monthly payment to my pension will not only secure my future upon retiring (I’m a long way off this and fear it will rise over the next thirty years sadly) but provides financial security for my family in the present day in the form of immediate life cover; death in service lump sum and a pension for my husband and child. In my opinion, the pension is worthwhile paying in to and will provide security for my family should the worst ever happen. The LGPS also provides options for ill-health retirement.

My employers subscribe into an Employee Assistance Programme for worklife support which all employees are entitled to use. It’s an external service and employees can ring up and request support from professionals and experts on a variety of issues including debt problems, relationship breakdowns and legal guidance. Having recommended the service to a number of colleagues, I have actually used the service myself and have found it to be really useful. I could discuss issues instead of bringing them into work and this gave me the opportunity to think about ways of resolving an issue with guidance and support from a professional.

Upon my return to work, I could also access and subscribe to the childcare voucher scheme which would help us if we needed to put Little Mr into a day nursery. The vouchers allow reasonable savings through tax relief (up to £1,000 per year in some cases) and can be used to pay for all types of registered Childcare in the UK. As a working family, this is something we would definitely be looking into should my in-laws and parents be unable to help with childcare.

It was very easy to access the benefits package information as my employer holds all the details on a learning gateway which all employees have secure access to 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. The information is easy to find under the heading of HR > Information > Employee Benefits and is updated on a regular basis in line with company policies and procedures. As I am part of the HR team at the Academy, I didn’t #askHR but used my own knowledge of the benefits available.

On the whole, I believe the employee benefits package that my employer provides are reasonable and would definitely help working Mums, Dads and carers. I’m not sure if my judgement is tainted a little having worked in Human Resources for some time and I’ve never had to look at them as a non-HR member of staff but I do believe my employer is fair and has the right mix of benefits available for the sector of work that my employer is in. I’m sure there are better benefits out there from employers in the private sector who make a large profit and can afford to splurge on their staff (free gym membership, 3 duvet days a year and free dry-cleaning are a few examples I’ve come across) but for a company in the public sector with limited budgets, I believe I’m getting a good deal as an employee.

For more information about Unum and its work with Mumsnet, visit http://www.mumsnet.com/microsites/unum-income-protection

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.

This post is written honestly and without prejudice. All views are my own.
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