Focus: People Management - Employee benefits - How can we help you, YWCA asks staff

Graham Willgoss, graham.willgoss@haynet.com

Y's Choice has been designed to make the charity a better place to work.

YWCA England and Wales has launched an employee benefits scheme that it believes will make the organisation more attractive to existing staff and potential recruits.

The new scheme, Y's Choice, was developed in consultation with staff - an organisation-wide survey asked them to put forward suggestions that would improve their working lives.

Staff identified flexible pensions, which would allow them to start saving for retirement even if they could not make a full contribution, as a "key issue". Others included flexitime, generous annual leave and sick pay, all of which the scheme offers.

Employees can also choose from a loan to buy a home computer, free life assurance, healthcare cash benefits, a season ticket loan and supplemented childcare. They also have access to an employee assistance programme providing advice on consumer, legal and financial issues.

"We're spread over a wide geographical area, so the scheme had to include benefits that would appeal to staff in different locations with different circumstances," said Lin Beekar, spokesperson for YWCA England and Wales.

"Recruiting and retaining people is something you always have to keep in mind, but the key thing is that the scheme was developed with our staff so we could assess how the organisation could benefit them most."

YWCA follows the lead of Cancer Research UK, Shelter and the NSPCC, all of which provide similar workforce advantages. "Our staff can access a central website giving them discounts on everything from health clubs to dental insurance," explained Tim Evans, head of reward at CRUK. "We're always thinking about creative ways to offer our employees more."

Liz de Boer, chair of trustees at the Charity Employees Benevolent Fund, said it was encouraging to see voluntary organisations offer staff benefits as part of their contracts.

"We need to see more of this happening to persuade people to join and remain in the sector," she added. "Schemes that get staff involved show charities care about their welfare as well as that of their beneficiaries."

But de Boer said she thought it unlikely that charities run on a "shoestring budget" will ever be able to provide this sort of support.

She added: "Ideally the CEBF would be redundant, but we need to exist for smaller charities that don't provide adequate pensions because they simply cannot afford to."

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