· 2 min read · Features

Child Benefit is just the start: how and why employers can step up support for working parents

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It has been a long time coming but finally the much-heralded cut in child benefit is coming into effect.

From 1 January 2013, higher rate earners will lose their weekly hand-out from the state, a loss which starts at £1,055.60 per year for the first child.

Of course this will only impact on employees in the 40% tax bracket and above. But it is worth putting aside the argument regarding whether they are most able to afford the cut and focusing on the broader picture facing working parents: that 2013 looks to be another tough year for living standards.

For a start, as reported in December, inflation is still a problem. At 2.7% it is running not far short of double average wage growth (which itself has been stagnant for the last few years) and denting purchasing power. Not only that, working families are hit disproportionately by the rising price of the essentials which they need to get to work: transport and childcare, to name two.

As employers I think there is plenty that we can and should do to acknowledge and support working parents in the year ahead. Here are some practical ideas:

Help deliver clarity around the impact of child benefit changes – surveys in the last few weeks have shown confusion around the impact and timing of child benefit changes - both for those effected and those who aren't. Help clarify who in your workplace may be affected and make them aware of the changes - it isn't too late.

Help them plan for the next tax year – many employers offer salary sacrifice schemes which can take employees out of the catchment for losing child benefit both in the current tax year and then next. Communicate the options available to employees so they can act in time.

Refresh your reward – you may not be able to give pay rises but there are plenty of low cost benefits which can help pay packets go further. Employee saving schemes which offer retail discounts and health cashplans can make a real difference and deliver a benefit to the employer.

Communicate what you already do – a perennial issue around benefits is that of low take up of what's already on offer. The agenda for the year ahead gives the perfect opportunity for organisations to help employee by increasing take-up through targeted communications which flags up solutions to some of the issues they face.

To ignore these issues and not do anything isn't just a mistake but an opportunity missed. That's because in the new 'more for less' environment we find ourselves in, getting our people to engage and perform to their fullest capability is what will make a difference to our success. Supportive employees who look out for their employees are the ones I think will come out on top. Working with parents should just be a starting point.

Andy Philpott (pictured) is sales and marketing director at employee benefits provider Edenred