How do I deliver a great global benefits package? – frequently asked questions
Posted on May 24, 22 by Dee Coakley
Savvy businesses know that to attract and keep hold of employees they need to set themselves apart from the competition – easier said than done in today’s increasingly remote-first working world, where people can work for pretty much anyone, anywhere.
The good news is that there’s plenty of information out there to help you stand out from the crowd. For example, LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2022 reports that two-thirds of people now put work/life balance first when picking a new job – way above compensation in second place. And it’s a similar story according to research giant Gallup, which tells us that employees consistently favour organisations who prioritise staff wellbeing.
It’s not surprising after the trauma and turbulence we’ve all been through during the pandemic. Employees want to work for businesses that value their physical and emotional health - and they’re ready to walk away from those who don’t. So how do you set about meeting their post-Covid needs?
While company culture has a role to play in setting healthy work-life balance and offering flexibility, it’s the global benefit packages comprising of both non-monetary ones such as additional time off and monetary, perk-style ones that are key here. Developing a comprehensive and considered global benefits package – one which gives employees the things they most care about shows your workforce that you’re ready to support them for the long haul.
Of course, delivering a great global benefits package isn’t easy, particularly if you’re employing people in many different parts of the world. There’s a lot to think about and plenty of complexities to navigate. How do you make sure you’re treating everyone fairly? How can you get your head around local cultural differences about what people expect in the way of benefits? And how do you recognise and support the differences that exist between employees based on their life stage, family situation, living arrangements – or just their personal preferences?
To help give you an answer, we’ve compiled the most frequently asked questions we get asked when we’re helping our clients to design and roll out a global benefits package that works for every employee, everywhere.
1. What benefits do my employees most want?
Since the pandemic, there’s been a huge shift toward benefits which positively impact health and wellbeing - from meditation apps and gym memberships to wellbeing days and more. The pandemic has also super-charged benefits that allow employees to work more productively from home – such as office equipment and even help with broadband or mobile bills.
Of course, different employees always want different things – such is life! You might not be able to meet every single employee ask, but what you can do is strive to ensure fairness – making sure that one group of employees doesn’t benefit from your policy more than another. For example, if you offer childcare help for employees with kids, what do you do for child-free members of staff? Do they have access to equivalent benefits that better suit their lifestyle?
Finally, don’t forget to ask your employees if they’re satisfied with what you’re providing. A little feedback sometimes goes a long way!
2. How can I satisfy the diverse needs of my employees?
Supporting the diverse needs of a diverse workforce is incredibly tricky. However, chances are that if you don’t offer a particular benefit, one of your rivals probably will! So if it’s not an option to set up every possible benefit out there, how then do you navigate the need for a diverse offering?
A flexible, self-managed global benefits package is one option and it’s no surprise they have been growing in popularity of late. Such an offering lets employees pick the benefits that make sense for them from a list of pre-vetted suppliers. Want a gym membership and a home entertainment system? That’s ok. Or prefer money for childcare and family-friendly food delivery? You can have that instead. What is an even better option is to provide benefits ‘allowances’ – putting control into employees’ hands to spend their allowance on the benefits that make the most sense for them. (We have just built a Borderless Flexi Benefits solution that allows employers to set a monthly budget and the benefit categories it can be spent on. Employees take it from there, choosing what matters to them at any point).
3. How do I keep my benefits package up to date?
Benefits don’t exist in a vacuum – they need to be flexible enough to adapt to employees’ changing needs. Right now, with the cost of living increasing exponentially, it may be that staff need help to make ends meet – perhaps with help towards energy bills, or transport. And particularly timely right now, given the situation in Ukraine, is the idea of allowing employees to make charity donations, either fully funded by employers, or through staff donations which are matched or topped up by the company.
According to Goodbox, some of the most popular charities being supported in the UK right now range from the Red Cross to the RSPCA, as well as local community groups, food banks and more. Worldwide, charities such as Amnesty International and the Medicine Sans Frontiers are popular with corporate donors. And charitable giving doesn’t always have to involve money - for example, some companies give paid leave to employees who want to donate their time to good causes. The important thing is that you’re mindful of how employees feel about the wider world and that you can provide appropriate support when there’s a cause that’s close to their heart.
4. I have staff in multiple countries – how do I make benefits work?
When a company has employees in different countries, sorting out benefits is currently complex – not least because you have to make sure you’re complying with a nation’s statutory benefits.
For example, in the UK, all employees have the legal right to request flexible working if they have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks – while many other countries don’t have to offer this. And in France, an employer must cover 50% of the employee's public transport expenses for the commute to work – not the case in the UK or many other territories. You can’t get around these local obligations – you simply have to make sure you’ve factored them into your overall benefits package.
Beyond statutory benefits, you also have to comply with the local taxation of benefits in kind, which differs greatly. In Italy, for example, benefits in kind are tax exempt for up to €258.23 per year, regardless of what they are. In Ireland, employees are exempted from paying tax on one-off benefits in kind that are up to €500 per year. For any sums beyond that, employees will have to pay a tax on the benefit, which the employer has to deduct from their payroll. However, in New Zealand and Australia, the employer covers taxation. (Our Borderless Benefits solution takes care of the tax complexity and clearly indicates everything you need to know)
5. How do I make sure employees in different territories are happy with their benefits?
It’s crucial to look at what different cultures expect – and there are plenty of nuances to bear in mind. For example, in France, employees expect meal vouchers, but they don’t in the UK. And in the UK, wellbeing days are becoming increasingly popular – where an entire company shuts down every quarter to give employees the chance to rest and recharge their batteries.
The level of taxation on benefits for employers differs across regions too – in Portugal, companies don’t have to pay tax on food and drinks for employees so it’s no surprise that meal provision is a popular benefit in the country.
To understand how to create a winning benefits package that works everywhere you operate, it’s a good idea to do your homework, and it might even be worth consulting an expert provider with experience employing people in these countries.
Crucially, a move to an employee self-managed approach will take away the need to make the decision on people’s behalf, letting you offer what different people in different countries really want. This will be a valuable addition to your employer brand, ensuring you attract & retain the very best people.
6. Where can I go to get help building my benefits package?
Understanding statutory local benefits and expected non-mandatory ones is the first place to start to create a truly great global benefits package. We have put together an ebook that looks at the statutory benefits in 13 countries as well as how good and great employers top those up. Another place to look for inspiration are our country guides. These simple overviews provide you with everything you need to know about what benefits you must provide in each country, as well as the benefits that are nice to have (but are strongly recommended!)
If you want to find out how we are making managing international employee benefits easy and pain-free, sign up to speak with one of our experts.
The making available of information to you on this site by Boundless shall not create a legal, confidential or other relationship between you and Boundless and does not constitute the provision of legal, tax, commercial or other professional advice by Boundless. You acknowledge and agree that any information on this site has not been prepared with your specific circumstances in mind, may not be suitable for use in your business, and does not constitute advice intended for reliance. You assume all risk and liability that may result from any such reliance on the information and you should seek independent advice from a lawyer or tax professional in the relevant jurisdiction(s) before doing so.
Written by Dee Coakley
Before founding international employment platform, Boundless, Dee Coakley was a three-time COO, having spent 10 years with B2B SaaS businesses (Masabi, Bizimply & Axonista). In her COO roles, she experienced first-hand the operational challenges of setting up employees in new countries, and so set about building a solution.
Boundless handles cross-border HR compliance and payroll for small and mid-size businesses, removing the barriers to growing teams internationally.
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