United Kingdom

Aon says salary sacrifice remains a powerful benefits mechanism for employee and employer savings

December 2016


Closing schemes would reduce value of most benefits

  • Aon’s post-Autumn Statement event in London included a poll of nearly 90 HR/Reward professionals:
  • 71% felt the erosion of salary sacrifice would impact benefits negatively
  • 71% also believed they would have to rethink benefits strategy in the future

71% of delegates polled at our salary sacrifice seminar last week felt they would have to rethink benefit strategy as a result of the changes announced in the Autumn Statement. 71% percent also felt that the erosion of salary sacrifice would impact benefits negatively.

The post-Autumn Statement seminar, timed to answer questions on the long-anticipated salary sacrifice changes, was held for 88 HR and reward professionals at our London headquarters.

Jeff Fox, principal at Aon Employee Benefits, said:

"Employee benefits are not a subject usually discussed in the Budget or Autumn Statement. In the past, we’ve found relevant details in the technical statement afterwards, but this year, salary sacrifice benefits were highlighted in the televised speech, and even mainstream media commented on individual impacts. Perhaps not surprisingly, there has been commentary on the ‘death of salary sacrifice’, but this is inaccurate on a number of levels, not least because the existing treatment of pensions, childcare vouchers and bicycles remain unchanged. These are among the most popular salary sacrifice benefits and deliver the greatest value to employers and employees alike.

"Pension alone normally accounts for 80% of an employer’s salary sacrifice savings, so in its current form it remains a useful vehicle for savings. After the seminar, 61% of respondents said the Autumn Statement changes were not as great as they thought, but they do need to plan for them."

However, the changes mean that employers will no longer save National Insurance when an employee elects to sacrifice cash for benefits such as health screenings or additional life assurance (on top of that funded by the employer direct), and employees will be taxed on these for the first time. Computers, mobile phones, car parking and in-house gyms will all lose their full or partial tax exemption. Further ahead, there will be significant changes to company cars, which will have a large impact on employers and employees who utilise the current advantageous arrangements.

Martha How, principal at Aon Employee Benefits, further explained:

"A second argument for salary sacrifice remaining a powerful benefits delivery mechanism is because there is a whole tranche of benefits where employees currently pay tax but save NIC. The Autumn Statement proposals leave the employee National Insurance savings intact."

These benefits include private medical insurance, dental insurance, travel insurance and will also include health screenings, life assurance and income protection insurance.

How continued:

"The fact remains that salary sacrifice will continue to deliver significant employee National Insurance savings, based on current proposals, while employers will still benefit from the big three – pensions, childcare and bikes.

"Now is a good time to re-assess benefits strategy, but closing salary sacrifice schemes for most benefits would reduce the real value of benefits in the hands of employees."

Pre-event polls

With the erosion of salary sacrifice, I feel:

That benefits will be negatively impacted: 71%
That there will be little or no impact 24%
That it will have a positive impact 0
Do not know 5%

In terms of employee communications:

I am concerned that employees will not understand the changes 50%
I am confident this can be addressed with good online comms 25%
I am not worried; employees do not understand the current arrangements 26%

Post-event polls

With regard to the impact of these changes, I believe that:

Changes are very serious and I have a lot to do 17%
It is not as great as I thought, but I need to plan for it 61%
Little or no impact for my organisation 22%

Thinking about the future for employee benefits

There are a lot more difficult challenges to come 27%
We need to rethink our benefit strategy 71%
Government led changes may be quite static from now on 2%


For more information on how we can help with your salary sacrifice strategy please contact letstalkbenefits@aon.co.uk



Aon UK Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England and Wales. Registered number: 00210725. Registered Office: The Aon Centre, The Leadenhall Building, 122 Leadenhall Street, London EC3V 4AN.