Spotlight on the Republic of Ireland: A guide to implementing employee benefits technology
For organisations launching a unified employee benefits experience across multiple countries, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom) can sometimes get categorised together as one region – and while, geographically, this may be correct, in terms of benefits there are a lot of nuances between the countries.
The Republic of Ireland (RoI) is a location we are frequently asked about – coming up in one-in-four conversations from a new business perspective – so to clear up some questions and reflect on some considerations, we thought it was time to put the spotlight on the Republic of Ireland.
Considerations for benefits design
The RoI is second only to the UK for European countries offering the largest range of benefits choices. This of course lends itself to a lot of complex administration and an often-confusing benefits market.
If we were to place the RoI on the simple-to-complex model, it would sit firmly at the ‘complex’ end – this doesn’t mean it’s a complicated country to launch a platform in, rather that the benefits themselves are complex compared to other locations. This is due to the options to customise benefits, pick and choose bonuses, add dependents etc.
We’re seeing a growing number of voluntary, employee-funded benefits, such as cycle-to-work and experience-based benefits growing in popularity. With such a variety to choose from, organisations are looking to streamline the benefits process and reduce administration.
The complexity of individual benefits
The majority of customers we see in the RoI have pension schemes in place, and, with auto-enrolment coming into place (although the launch date has been delayed again), there’s scope for introducing tailored contributions. Many employees expect this to be available even after auto-enrolment, and if anytime contributions are made available to employees, this will make implementation more complex.
Discount and cashback portals have also proven very popular in the RoI, offered by 70% of Benefex customers. For organisations just starting out or with limited capacity for a wide range of benefits, this is a great option.
We’ve previously touched on the flexibility and popularity of spending or reimbursement accounts which are increasing in prevalence – and sometimes offered as wellbeing-specific funds or ‘Festive Funds’ to allow employees save money towards Christmas.
Medical care is very varied around the country. The Irish market is quite different to other countries in Europe, being influenced by local health authorities and government bodies, with companies having to navigate mid-year rate increases and lifetime community rating.
For employers handling administration manually, there’s a lot of room for error and a lot of time wasted – and it’s complicated for employees to understand. To simplify the journey for employees, a rate calculator is an essential part of any online benefits platform, so employees can see the cost depending on the options they choose.
A need for technology
Since the EU Referendum in the UK, there’s been an influx of interest in the RoI, with more organisations looking to open offices and build teams there. We also know from data that the workforce in the RoI is typically fairly young, so it’s an even more competitive market to hire and retain employees.
The majority of organisations we talk to in the RoI don’t currently have a platform in place, so they’re managing benefits manually. They are looking for online solutions that help them tackle all the admin and complexity that comes with growth in headcount and demand for new benefits.
Return on investment in the Emerald Isle
From the complexities of post-Brexit growth to changing tax rates, the Republic of Ireland may be a complicated location to launch benefits, but it’s also a hugely successful location. While the benefits landscape is complex, there’s a significant amount of work that can be simplified by the use of technology to mitigate some of that complexity and make a complex framework function (and feel) simple and user-friendly.
The key here is to act quickly, and implement a solution to not only today’s problems but your organisation’s future challenges. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking a small headcount doesn’t need a platform, but this will only hold you up later down the line – so start early, you don’t have to tackle it all from day one; start simple and put the foundations in place to grow. Plus, who’s to say employees who are one of 20 deserve any less of an exceptional experience than those of 200.