David’s view: debunking the myths of home technology

David Walker

Firstly, people love cool stuff, so being able to offer staff the ability to access the very latest technology is simply a cool thing.

Secondly, with regard to smartphones, it is rare to find a benefit that applies to almost all employees.

I often ask clients: “What percentage of your employees have a mobile phone?” Normally the answer is: “100 per cent.”

This is particularly interesting when we are starting to see five generations in the workplace at the same time. As a consequence, employers need benefits that apply not just to discrete groups of employees but en masse.

However, we know from Employee BenefitsThe Benefits Research 2014 that just six per cent of employers offer computer/technology schemes to staff.

If you look at childcare vouchers or bikes-for-work schemes, you tend to see 60 per cent of employers offering them, but when you compare that with home technology, that figure drops to six per cent. It is about the same proportion for smartphones.

Why would so few employers offer benefits which are attractive to all?

The number-one reason is lack of understanding. Home technology and mobile phones as benefits are not marketed that well, or that effectively.

The second reason is, in terms of smartphones, that there is certainly a lack of understanding. Companies don’t understand how to treat a mobile phone as a benefit in the same way they can understand and grasp a bike as an employee benefit.

The legislation lays out the treatment of bikes-for-work schemes very clearly and concisely. It is not so clear when it comes to smartphones.

There is HM Revenue & Customs guidance around the tax treatment of mobile phones, which basically says they are exempt from any kind of benefit-in-kind taxation for the employee.

The third reason affects home tech. Because there is a difference in the way schemes are offered, different providers are approaching the delivery of home technology in different ways.

So that points to a lack of clarity on how schemes can be operated. There is certainly a perception that it is much harder to administer than bikes-for-work schemes and childcare vouchers.

That is the basis of why take-up is low.

The interesting thing about home tech and mobile phones is that if you surveyed the six per cent of employers who are offering home tech and the five to six per cent who are offering smartphones, the feedback would be they are incredibly valued.

We have a couple of clients who say that the top two benefits, out of what they offer to staff, are holiday buy/sell and home technology.

So once you actually get a scheme up and running, the feedback is normally exceptional. The benefits for both the employer and employee are substantial.

So not only is it cool, but everyone can benefit from it.

By David Walker, chief commercial officer at Personal Group