Background

Our client is headquartered in Austin, Texas with locations in a dozen countries worldwide. They are committed to optimising all stages of real estate, facilities and asset management, to help organisations fulfil their mission.

In 2016 our client acquired two companies in the UK. It already had a small UK subsidiary which was managed by a wholly owned subsidiary in the Netherlands.

As part of their strategic plan to create one legal entity in the UK we were asked to manage the employee benefit harmonisation, simplification, and compliance project.

Business Objectives

  • To understand what employee benefits and staff rewards were being provided to the employees of each company
  • To understand how the benefits compared to their contractual commitments and their peers in their marketplace and also whether these were fully compliant with UK legislation
  • To ensure the UK benefit package was aligned as closely as possible with benefits offered globally, in particular to the US employees
  • To improve the benefits for all employees wherever possible and create a level of consistency for all

Current Situation

Our client confirmed it would be approximately 12 months before a single legal entity could be created in the UK due to the need to harmonise contracts and comply with TUPE and employment legislation. However, they felt it was imperative that a group wide unified benefit package was introduced as soon as possible to help employees feel part of one UK organisation.

The existing employee benefit arrangements across the two UK entities included:

  • 3 x Workplace Pension schemes with two different insurance companies
  • 1 x Group Life Assurance scheme for one company
  • 1 x Private Medical Insurance scheme for one company
  • 3 x Payrolls, one for each company

Outcome of our review

We presented a report to the European HR Director and the Directors of the UK subsidiaries along with relevant benchmarking information, which recommended a simple, competitive, compliant employee benefit program designed to retain the existing staff and aid recruitment of new people.

To simplify and improve the existing arrangements whilst ensuring no worse terms, we recommended single schemes for their Workplace Pension, Group Life Assurance, Group Income Protection and Private Medical Insurance arrangements, with consistent level of benefit for all.

By conducting a comprehensive tender review of the leading insurers and negotiating bespoke terms with the most competitive, we were able to secure highly competitive terms for both the Life Assurance and Income Protection schemes. This included significantly higher cover limits without the need for underwriting which meant all employees were immediately insured for their full contractual cover.

We recommended a tax efficient trust structure for the Life Assurance scheme which would place each legal entity in a separate category within a single scheme until such time as this could be seamlessly merged into one once the new single UK entity was created.

We recommended using one of the existing Workplace Pension schemes but negotiated a significant reduction in its charges so more of the money paid in to it benefited the employees. By using one of the existing schemes, it would make the transfer of existing funds to the new contract significantly simpler and required no paperwork from the employees.

We also recommended to the company Bridgehead Europe, a HMRC approved payroll bureau who took over the management of the three existing payrolls thereby simplifying communication of all payroll matters. Once the single UK entity was created, they could then merge the payrolls without the company having to provide any further data, saving further time and cost.

Having agreed the benefit structure, scheme providers, premiums, and costs with Europe we were asked to present the proposed solution to the CFO in Austin Texas, supported by representatives of all the key stakeholders in Europe. We explained why the benefits had been proposed, the legislative considerations, how this compared to the US provision and other UK competitors whilst demonstrating the costs and benefits compared to the original position. The solution in full was agreed for implementation.

Implementation

A benefit introduction strategy was recommended which staggered the introduction of benefits over a 6 month period. This enabled the company’s HR team to build momentum around the new improved benefit structure, giving more good news to employees every few months. This not only maximised the impact with employees but also gave their team the time to fully embed the processes required to support the benefits.

The Workplace Pension and Group Life Assurance scheme were introduced at the start of the new tax year simplifying tax reporting. We recommended employees were offered the ability to contribute to the pension via salary exchange on an “opt in” basis, which has the benefit of reducing their National Insurance contributions thereby increasing their net take home pay. This option was selected by most employees and meant the company also enjoyed significant National Insurance savings. On our recommendation they used this saving to enhance their Private Medical Insurance’s outpatient coverage thereby making it more competitive compared to their peers.

To maximise the value of the Company’s spend on the benefits we delivered bespoke presentations to staff at each office to ensure they fully understood each benefit and how to access and benefit from these.

By us implementing and now managing their employee benefit package the resource they anticipated would be required within their business to look after this area reduced significantly and means they can manage this remotely and very cost effectively from their European offices in the Netherlands.

If you would be interested in how we can help you review your benefits program and any wellbeing or employee engagement solutions, please contact us at info@wingatebs.com or on 01883 332260.

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