Should employers offer their staff ISAs?

SavingsGetting the most out of your workplace pension is one of the easiest ways to build up your retirement pot, with contributions from you, your employer and tax relief from the government they're a very good deal.

But are they that good that you would swap some of your other workplace perks for more money in your pension pot.

Some companies are giving their employees this higher level of control over what perks they receive, providing employees with an annual allowance that can be 'spent' in different ways.

The company may offer gym memberships, healthcare and bike to work as normal, and maybe some not so usual discount cards for restaurant or days out, but you get to choose how your allowance is spent.

This means you could put it all, very sensibly, into your pension or, less sensibly, blow it on all the fun perks.

The number of employers who provide benefits to employees in this way is limited and most offer the 'use-it-or-lose' it benefits package. Although any benefits are generous if you're the employee, it would make sense for more employers to offer a flexible benefits package – giving people the opportunity to pay more into their pension if they aren't bothered about discount cards and gyms.

Workplace savings will from this year play an increasingly important role in the lives of UK employees with the start of auto-enrolment and the launch of the government-backed pension scheme, the National Employment savings Trust.

Those who aren't already in a workplace pension scheme will be auto-enrolled into one, meaning those who weren't saving for their future will soon be.

But do employers have a bigger role to play in our financial lives? We are seeing the emergence of employers offering workplace individual savings accounts (ISAs). They do this through a workplace platform – a piece of online technology that allows you to log on and see how much is in your pension and ISA.

The principle is the same as online banking and not only can you see your balances but you can make additional payments.

Providing an ISA that you can contribute to before your money hits your pocket is a great way to save, particularly for young people who are not thinking about pensions yet and are looking at housing deposits.

The question is, if your employer offered you an ISA would you take it and would it encourage you to save more?
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