Money and vouchers
Money talks. It says 'we value and appreciate your efforts'. Both hard cash and vouchers are direct and easy benefits to give. Both work best as short-term incentive and reward for meeting targets etc. And in both cases, presentation is important. Much better to hand out the reward personally, explaining why it's being given, then to slip it unannounced into the wage packet.
All cash bonuses go through the PAYE cycle. Cash bonuses are also subject to national insurance contributions (NIC).
Vouchers take more admin effort than money, but the employee is more likely to spend these on treats rather than bills. Vouchers are no longer exempt from NIC. There's a huge variety of vouchers now available – for high street retail, childcare or day trips.
Company cars have massive status value. They are still popular perks, despite efforts by government to make them less so. The employer pays NIC on cars, plus tax on its list price and business mileage. Cars are often driven simply to increase the mileage, because the tax percentage falls as mileage rises.
To thwart this, tax is now based on carbon monoxide emissions, not on mileage. Where cash alternatives to cars are offered, around 10% of employees currently take this option.
Experts say this figure will rise to 50% in the next five years. It's questionable whether cars will remain as effective a perk.
Childcare – important if you want to retain staff who you've already invested time and money in developing. Also gives your company a good image, helping to attract high calibre people. Consider childcare vouchers (still exempt from NI contributions), providing nursery places, or even getting directly involved with childcare provisions – perhaps in partnership with other local companies.
Season ticket loans – much appreciated in cities and areas where the commute to work is a big part of the day. Easy to set-up; the company just pays upfront for travel costs and recoups the money through monthly payroll deductions.
Gym membership – again, easy to set up. Just negotiate a group discount with a local health club and pass the saving on to employees. Fitness is becoming increasingly popular, and staff may be more productive if they sweat away work stress at the gym.