Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Bike Week – is now the perfect time to change your commute to work?

The commute to work is often one of life’s most tedious tasks. Traffic jams, cancelled trains and delayed buses – these are just some of the issues that workers face throughout the year. It’s not surprising that a recent scientific study by Stanford Calming Technology Lab highlighted that those who had an active commute – such as walking or cycling - had a higher level of wellbeing than those who relied on machines. With the return of Bike Week this week, Busy Bees Benefits asks whether now is the perfect time to change your commute to work.

The employee benefits firm is championing the annual Bike Week event, in a drive to boost take up in its Government backed Cycle to Work scheme. This year’s Bike Week focuses on encouraging people to use their bikes to cycle to work. So if you’re not looking forward to competing for road space with bike users, the only way to beat them is to join them!

With the research presented by Stanford Calming Technology Lab earlier this year, you might begin to wonder why so many of us are still not taking an active approach to our commute to work. The answer to this is simple - it is believed that many of us don’t cycle to work due to two main reasons – cost and time.

For many workers on a lower income, spending money on a new bike might be out of the question if they are already funding parking, petrol or public transport expenses. However, for those whose employers offer the Cycle to Work scheme through Busy Bees Benefits, a saving of 32 – 42% can be made on a new bike or cycling accessories, making it even easier to join in the festivities of Bike Week.

“Being healthier has a positive impact on the employee and the organisation,” commented John Woodward, CEO of Busy Bees Benefits. “Statistics prove that healthier employees are 3 times more productive than employees in poor health.

“Employees that exercise on a daily basis are more alert during work hours and they are less likely to get tired during the workday. Furthermore, absenteeism is 27% lower for those employees who regularly exercise. Those facts alone are enough for any employer to encourage its staff to join in Bike Week!” he concluded.

or those who haven’t taken part in Bike Week so far – it’s not too late to join in the fun! If your employer doesn’t currently offer the Cycle to Work scheme, they can contact Busy Bees Benefits using the online contact form or by telephone on 0330 333 9100 for more information. 

Monday, 15 June 2015

31 per cent of UK employers fail to offer formal learning programmes

With Adult Learning Week stealing the spotlight this week, employers are now under more pressure than ever to ensure that their employees are learning on the job. In industries where Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is not strictly enforced, additional training is often side-lined, resulting in low staff morale and a demotivated workforce.

Accounting, medicine, education are just some of the sectors where CPD has traditionally been relied on, but what about those who don’t work in these industries?

Employers can help their staff save on work-related training by using the new Earn and Learn scheme. All costs relating to tuition, travel, accommodation and substance can all be paid for under the scheme**. To qualify, both internal and external training must be linked to the employee’s work role or a role they may have in the future.

Through exchanging part of their salary for training, employees will not pay tax or National Insurance on the sacrificed amount. Basic rate tax payers can save up to 32% during a 12-month period and higher rate can save up to 42%. The perks for employers are just as great as they save on National Insurance bills and retain key talent.

“The Earn and Learn scheme meets the needs of both parties,” explained John Woodward, CEO of Busy Bees Benefits. “Both employees and employers benefit from the training – especially if there’s a saving involved.
“According to a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 31% of UK organisations have no formal learning programme in place. We believe this is due to the fact that employers just don’t know these employee benefit schemes exist.

“Having a strong employee benefits offering is now even more important as the economy begins to recover from the recession. As a result of this growth, employees now have wider career options and may start to explore the expanding job market if they feel they could increase their value elsewhere.

“With Adult Learning Week taking off, now is a great time to spread the word and encourage employers to facilitate their employees’ learning opportunities,” he concluded.

To learn more about Adult Learners’ Week and to explore the events happening near you, please visit http://www.alw.org.uk/.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Tax-free Childcare hits middle earners

Tax-free Childcare hits middle earners

The countdown has begun to the introduction of the Government’s Tax-free Childcare scheme, which is due to be launched in the autumn.  The scheme will see the Government subsidising 20% of a child’s childcare costs, providing savings of up to £2,000 each year to help working parents save money on their childcare.  However, the scheme will mainly benefit high earners with high childcare costs.

Low income parents will still be able to get Working Tax Credits to help with their childcare, but what about middle income families?

John Woodward, Busy Bees Benefits CEO explains “we have been helping parents to work out which scheme will be best for them based on their incomes and childcare costs, finding that the majority of middle income families are better off using Childcare Vouchers.” 

The main issue with Tax-free Childcare is that parents are reading about savings of £2,000 per child each year.   However, in reality, many don’t realise that they would actually only get the maximum saving if their childcare costs are over £10,000 per child each year.  If both parents use Childcare Vouchers, they could save up to £1,866 per year, whilst only spending £5,832 on their childcare costs.

In the Family and Childcare Trust’s Childcare Cost Survey 2015*, it was reported that the average annual cost for a two-year-old going to nursery part-time (25-hours per week), is £6,000.  This indicates that the average parent will be worse off using Tax-free Childcare as they would only save £1,200 per child, compared to £1,866 available through Childcare Vouchers. 
With the announcement that the Government will be increasing free childcare to 30-hours for all 3 and 4 year olds before 2017, now is the time for parents to consider what their childcare requirements and costs are likely to be going forward so they can work out which scheme is going to be best for them, as the expected reduction in childcare costs will mean many will be better off with Childcare Vouchers.

Those using Childcare Vouchers will have the right to choose which scheme is best for them from the autumn.  If their circumstances change, they can opt to move to Tax-free Childcare, however they cannot switch back.  Those who do not get on a Childcare Voucher scheme before the autumn, will only have the option of using Tax-free Childcare to save money on their childcare costs.

Parents are therefore being urged to join their employer’s Childcare Voucher scheme now as Tax-free Childcare will see the closure of the current scheme.  This means that only those who are already using the scheme can continue to do so after Tax-free Childcare is implemented.  Unlike Tax-free Childcare where both parents have to be working to claim the subsidy, Childcare Vouchers only requires one parent to be working to benefit from the savings. 

Parents aren’t the only ones who will lose out when Tax-free Childcare is introduced.  With the current Childcare Voucher scheme, employers can save up to £402 per parent on their scheme each year; the more they have using Childcare Vouchers, the more they save in Employers National Insurance Contributions.  Under Tax-free Childcare, unless parents continue to use Childcare Vouchers and they increase the take up of their scheme, they could potentially lose out on significant savings for their organisation.

Parents wanting to save money on their childcare should find out if their employer offers Childcare Vouchers.  If they don’t, they can contact Busy Bees Benefits who will speak to their employer on their behalf to set up a scheme before it’s too late.

For more information about Childcare Vouchers, please contact Busy Bees Benefits on 0330 333 9100 or visit www.busybeesbenefits.com.