One of the reasons many of us choose to work on a salaries basis rather than freelance is because of the range of company benefits employers provide. When asking any freelancer about the ‘cons’ of being self-employed, it’s likely they will mention missing the benefits of paid leave, pension fund contributions, maternity/paternity leave packages, medical insurance, etc. Particularly in the current economic climate these are the kinds of benefits that can really help you to manage your finances and therefore ease your wellbeing.
However, even though benefit packages have become increasingly comprehensive, (flexible work hours, carers leave, access to discounts, and on-site gyms to name a few) only 27% of UK employees actually take advantage of the benefits available to them! Granted, some benefits are ‘nice-to-haves’ and aren’t necessarily impacting us in a real way, but depending on your lifestyle, some of them could end up saving you hundreds of pounds a year.
So, ahead of what could be a tight-budget winter, there’s no better time to evaluate your benefits and explore how they can work harder for you. Here are 6 ways for you to get the ball rolling…
A great place to start is with the stack of pamphlets you received when you first joined your company. Rifling through all the different benefits and reading through their conditions might not sound like an appealing way to spend your time, but by refreshing your memory, you might just come across something you either didn’t see before or that wasn’t applicable to you before. Is there access to discounted holiday flights that could help you save on your next trip? Could you earn cashback on your weekly supermarket shop? By knowing exactly what’s on offer, you can start to evaluate what’s most applicable to you, your family, and your life.
In order to discover which benefits can have a real impact on your life, it’s important to take stock of your personal, professional, and financial goals. Once you’ve established your goals and priorities in these areas, you can begin to assess which benefits will closely align with your current needs.
Personally - Are you looking to start or grow your family? Do you need more personal time outside of work to focus on your social life and/or mental wellbeing? Do you have any physical resolutions you’d like to achieve?
Professionally – Is there a new role you have your eye on? Are you looking to progress to a managerial position? Perhaps you’d like to gain more knowledge and acquire new skills?
Financially – Weighing up rent versus mortgage and wanting to save for a deposit? Spending more than you’d like to on commuting to and from work? Is it time to increase your pension contribution?
Now that you’re aware of your priorities, you can truly begin to understand the value of certain benefits in relation to your goals. For example, if you’re concerned about commute costs, see if your company has a Cycle to Work scheme and save some tax on your purchase. If your family responsibilities are heavy on your mind, make sure you’re aware of the all the different types of dependant care support on offer.
Also, make sure you’re aware of all the discounts available to you via your company. You might not be a voucher or coupon person – yet – but you’d be amazed at how much money you can save with an extra 10% off here and a cheeky 10% off there. It all adds up.
Your co-workers are a great resource when it comes to discovering how to get the most from your benefits – especially the ones who’ve been there for many years! When having casual conversations, you can get first-hand information on the types of benefits they’re using, the processes they require, and the kind of difference those benefits can make.
After reading through your pamphlets and chatting with your colleagues, you’ll most likely have gathered a couple of questions that are a little more in-depth and specific to you. Great! Your HR department can help. Whether you’re unsure of next steps for adding your partner or dependants to your back-up care, or you’re wondering how to put in a claim for dental care, there will be someone in your HR department who can walk you through the process.
Another really savvy way to get the most from your benefits is to compare them with your partners’. Your company might provide a better medical aid scheme but maybe theirs offers a higher pension contribution. By doing a quick analysis, you can cherry pick the best offers between the pair of you and, where possible, earn/save more money.
*Top Tip: Find out exactly what your pension contribution percentages are, as well as what your employer is willing to match. If you can, this is a great way to contribute whatever they will match and get the most out of the benefit.