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Advertorial: An open and shut case for Home Computing Initiatives

24th May 2004
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There’s never been a better time for your organisation to take advantage of Home Computing Initiatives (HCI schemes) thanks to a comprehensive support framework that makes implementation straightforward and cost-effective.

Most HR professionals are aware of the government legislation that supports Home Computing Initiatives (HCI). Announced in the 1999 budget, it enables organisations to take advantage of a £500 annual tax exemption on computer equipment loaned to employees for use at home.

Many are also aware of the HR benefits of introducing such a scheme. As well as widening the overall skills base of the business by providing employees with core IT skills, a computer at home is a powerful tool for learning and professional development. Employees can follow courses and undertake computer based training in a familiar environment.

Above all, it’s an extremely inclusive benefit that can be enjoyed by most full time, and some part time employees, whatever their age, background or salary. At first glance it might look like a scheme for people who don’t have a home computer. But evidence from organisations that have implemented schemes shows that existing home users are just as enthusiastic, using this as an opportunity to upgrade old equipment or get a second device.

So why is now a better time than ever to implement an HCI scheme in your organisation? In short, government and industry have been working closely since the launch of the legislation to deliver a complete HCI package that makes the argument for introducing a scheme more powerful than ever.

As well as the legislation itself, there’s now a comprehensive, centralised support framework that encompasses guidelines, roadmaps, and partner and supplier networks. Dozens of organisations now specialise in the delivery of a scheme across the entire HCI lifecycle from selecting equipment, managing compliance and providing comprehensive IT support for end-users. They cater for organisations of all sizes – from small businesses with no more than two or three employees, to the largest where take up has been in the tens of thousands.

In particular, salary sacrifice is now an integral part of any HCI scheme, enabling businesses to offset the cost of implementing a scheme through a reduction in employer national insurance contributions. Some have gone further using their schemes to reduce operating costs significantly.

Salary sacrifice also sends a strong message to employees, showing that the employer is committed to making their salaries work harder for them. Feedback from employees also shows clearly that this type of benefit gives an organisation a real competitive edge in the job market, helping to attract increasingly discriminating candidates. It also plays an important role in workforce retention, providing a package that encourages staff to stay for the duration of the loan, although there are clear terms and conditions for employees who leave during the scheme.

In short, wherever you look across your organisation, and the UK workplace as a whole, an HCI scheme hits almost all the strategic sweet spots that occupy senior management today. From reducing the cost of employee churn, to building staff skills, from organisational efficiency to corporate responsibility, an HCI scheme has the potential to make a positive difference.

What’s so special, however, is that this initiative is benefits led. This makes it a real opportunity for any HR team to raise its profile, putting it right at the centre of a company-wide programme that may involve finance, tax, legal and IT. It also moves HR up the business value chain by championing a business initiative that has the ability to generate revenue and make a real impact on the bottom line.

The initiative also has the full backing of the government and industry bodies including the Institute of Directors and the CBI. Susan Anderson, Director of Human Resources policy, CBI says: "People who have access to computers at home have better IT skills than those who do not. This alone should be a compelling enough reason for UK employers to consider implementing an HCI scheme. The fact that they can do so at minimal cost and administrative burden to themselves while offering employees a tax free benefit should remove any doubts that might exist."

For more information on HCI schemes see:
www.ukhomecomputing.co.uk

For specific guidance on salary sacrifice see:
www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk/specialist/salary_sacrifice.pdf

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By AnonymousUser
25th May 2004 14:23

Nothing is ever totally straightforward. Be careful that you don't fall foul of Consumer Credit legislation, you will need to have a Group Consumer Credit licence

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