When it comes to recruiting and retaining your employees, you need a competitive employee benefits package. However, there’s more to creating a standout compensation package than adding additional perks.
It’s essential to select the right benefits for your employees. Some benefits are more appealing than others, while others help you address the growing needs of your employees without adding unnecessary complexity.
When choosing which benefits to offer your employees, you’ll want to consider flexible benefits from a vendor-neutral provider.
This article explains what vendor-neutral benefits are, why you want a vendor-agnostic platform for your employee benefits, and how flexible benefits are advantageous for you and your employees.
Read our guide on flexible employee fringe benefits
What does vendor-agnostic mean?
A vendor-agnostic, or vendor-neutral, employee benefits solution doesn’t rely on a partner vendor list. A vendor-neutral benefits platform works with any single vendor or organization without preference to current vendors your organization uses.
Instead of being required to use your funds or benefits at a single vendor that is compatible with your benefits plan, your employees can use their benefits for qualifying expenses at any vendor of their choice.
For example, many group health insurance plans require policyholders to use specific pharmacies for their prescriptions to receive coverage. However, you could get your prescription filled at any pharmacy with a vendor-agnostic health benefits solution.
Why do vendor-agnostic benefits matter to employees?
Traditional benefits are often restrictive for employees by limiting where they can use their reimbursements, allowances, and benefit cards.
The major benefits of vendor-neutral platforms are freedom and choice. Employees have their choice of vendors and they can choose how to spend their benefit allowance, card balance, or reimbursement. Instead of being forced to only purchase eligible items or services from a preferred vendor list, they can go wherever is most convenient for them.
In the case of services like employee gym memberships, employees can go to any gym they want using their benefit instead of a specific gym that your organization partners with for your wellness programs.
This is especially helpful when your employees are spread out geographically, as your current vendors may not be available near their homes.
Additionally, vendor-neutral providers generally don’t have control over the individual benefits you’re offering to your employees, allowing you to customize them so that they work with your organization.
With a vendor-agnostic approach to benefits, your employees have more flexibility and control over how they use their benefits and won’t be tethered to a set company vendor list.
Why flexible benefits are important for employers
Offering a range of benefits is an attractive solution for your business in many ways. Having a flexible benefits package helps your organization attract and retain top talent in a tight labor market by improving the employee experience and making your job description stand out.
When you increase employee satisfaction, you create a company culture where your employees enjoy coming to work and being a part of a collaborative team. Your employees will be more productive and engaged in the workplace, enabling you to reach your business goals while reducing employee turnover.
Common types of flexible, vendor-neutral benefits
Personalized benefits are a comprehensive solution to providing flexible, vendor-agnostic perks to your employees. We’ll cover a few of the top fringe benefits you can provide in the sections below.
Health benefits are an essential part of any benefits plan. However, traditional group health insurance plans often don’t provide the flexibility your employees need. Thankfully, there are alternatives to group health coverage, such as cafeteria plans, health stipends, and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs).
An HRA is a formal health benefit that enables you to reimburse your employees for their qualifying medical expenses with pre-tax dollars. Simply set monthly or annual allowances for your employees and approve their eligible expenses for reimbursement.
Three of the most popular HRAs are the:
- Qualified small employer HRA (QSEHRA)
- Individual coverage HRA (ICHRA)
- Group coverage HRA (GCHRA), also called an integrated HRA
Employees can get reimbursed for the qualifying expenses that matter most to them, such as individual health insurance premiums, vision benefits, dental insurance premiums, and out-of-pocket medical expenses with an HRA.
HRAs are vendor-agnostic solutions because they allow your employees to choose the health insurance plans, services, and products that works best for them. However, your employees must have individual insurance that meets minimum essential coverage (MEC) under an ICHRA, and must be participating in a group health insurance policy to be eligible for a GCHRA.
If you’re looking for an even more flexible health benefit, a health stipend might be the way to go. Just like with an HRA, employees can request reimbursement for health expenses. But, since employee stipends are taxable, there are fewer restrictions on eligible expenses with a health stipend. This allows you to provide a truly flexible and vendor-neutral benefit to your staff.
Employee wellbeing programs are becoming increasingly common in the workplace as employers seek to address and improve holistic wellbeing. However, not every employee wellness plan is designed equally.
Many employers outsource their wellness programs and lifestyle benefits to third-party vendors. While this is a basic solution to improving employee wellbeing, the vendor may not be an agnostic company and therefore, wouldn’t allow for the flexibility your employees need.
A wellness stipend is an excellent addition to any wellness plan that allows you to reimburse employees for their wellness expenses. You can reimburse employees for their gym memberships, fitness and yoga class fees, home exercise equipment, mobile wellness apps, fitness trackers, and more with a wellness stipend.
This enables your employees to practice well-being at home in their preferred way, regardless of what gyms they decide to attend or which brand of equipment they purchase.
Remote work benefits
If you employ remote workers, you can help ensure they have all the tools and support to succeed with a remote work stipend. This allows you to reimburse your remote employees for expenses like internet access, cell phone bills, and home office setup costs.
Other flexible employee benefits
Many other flexible employee benefits are available that allow you to better serve your employees’ needs.
Additional comprehensive suite of benefits include:
- Commuter benefits
- Education assistance
- Allowing employees to work a flexible schedule (known as flex time)
- Unlimited paid time off
- Health savings accounts (HSAs)
- Flexible spending accounts (FSAs)
To get optimal performance out of your benefits package, you should consider a vendor-agnostic solution. This will allow your employees the greatest amount of flexibility over where they can use their benefits.
Establishing a flexible benefits program is another way to ensure that all of your employees can benefit from your perks while giving them the freedom to use their benefits the way they want to.
If you’re looking to offer flexible benefits to your employees, PeopleKeep can help. Our vendor-agnostic platform makes it easy to offer dependable products, such as HRAs and employee stipends, that your staff can use regardless of where they incurred their eligible expenses.
Schedule a call with a personalized benefits advisor today to see how our vendor-agnostic suite of products can help your organization grow
This article was originally published on June 22, 2022. It was last updated on December 2, 2022.