Saving employees money on their travel payments can be both easy and engaging, says Paul Martinuof Abellio Corporate Travel
Commuting to and from London – and indeed all over the UK – costs a huge amount of money, and many employees can often only make that journey with significant financial outlay in a lump sum at the beginning of the year.
However, if the employer pays the travel costs, the employee can then pay that lump sum back over 10 to twelve months via payroll.
There are three ways this arrangement can be achieved. Firstly, the company can write a cheque made payable to the train company and the employee can then go and purchase the ticket at a train station.
The second method is for the company to loan the employee the money by paying it into their salary, and then they will buy the ticket from the station, before returning to the employer to show a receipt of proof of purchase back to HR or payroll.
The third method is Abellio’s route. The employer loans the relevant amount of money to their employee – and the employee can receive a ticket on their desk before they go home that evening.
Our service is free of charge to employers – we work with 30,000 employees, and over 200 clients across the UK.
We provide the employer with a portal (ACTnow), that they can customise according to how much administrative control they wish to have – in general we take all the hassle and administration away, although some customers opt for line manager, HR or payroll approval on the portal.
Everything is then achieved through the portal – this year we have launched single-sign on capabilities so it can be linked directly to the payroll systems and company intranet. It also reports data back to the employer every week for payroll deductions, so they have all the management and employee usage information.
The portal can be customised using requirements pertinent to the client, for example, employee numbers, locations and so on can be collected and reported upon. ACTnow can validate employees and ensure probationary period restrictions are adhered to.
From there, instead of requesting a cheque, returning to the train station and taking proof of receipt back to the employer, approval is given online, so the employee can get their ticket on the same or next day.
And in terms of risk management: if the ticket is lost, stolen or not working, we resolve the whole process for them on behalf of both employer and employee.
So what’s in it for the employee? Once they’ve filled in their information on ACTnow, getting a travel ticket is a much quicker process – but there’s more to it than that.
It’s also a huge money saver. For example, if you were to buy a weekly Zone 1-3 travelcard, that would cost £37.70, for a monthly ticket it would be £144.80 and for an annual ticket would be £1,508.
In buying that annual ticket, you’re actually only pay for 40 weeks’ travel – but it’s still a significant lump sum for an individual to pay at the beginning of the year. And if you’re commuting further around the UK, you might have an outlay or £6000 or £7000 in one go at the start of each year – quite an inhibitive cost. If an employer can loan their employee that money that is then paid back interest-free over ten or twelve months, that saving can make a huge difference.
It’s worth communicating this to employees – we go to employee benefit days, and we also help our clients with brochures, publicity and welcome packs for new joiners – as the cost saving is a very engaging benefit.
We’re currently working on making the benefit even easier by developing smart cards akin to oyster cards that will work nationwide – with the intention that employees will be able to load their annual tickets straight from their phone onto their travel card.
The price of travel is growing continuously, especially as the economy bounces back. And as people commute more between conurbations such as London, Manchester and Leeds, the need for help with travel costs will only become more pressing for employees – and employers looking to attract the top talent.