Perks are on the rise as employers fight to attract and retain staff with top IT skills

A growing number of employers are offering a wide choice of perks to IT staff, as firms seek to recruit and retain IT professionals with sought-after skills.

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A growing number of employers are offering a wide choice of perks to IT staff, as firms seek to recruit and retain...

IT professionals with sought-after skills.

The proportion of firms offering flexible benefits rose from 30% in 2004 to 43% last year, according to research by Computer Economics. Flexible benefits allow employees to trade some of their salary for benefits or to mix and match the benefits that best suit their needs. The most popular include extra holidays, working from home, private medical cover, childcare vouchers, life assurance and pensions.

"There has been a significant increase in flexible benefits year on year," said Trevor Morris, Computer Economics director. "Companies realise they need to improve their benefits if they want to be thought of as an employer of choice."

Employers see benefits as an important factor in recruiting the best staff. Over 70% of the 500 firms surveyed reported difficulties in finding IT staff with the right skills last year.

A growing number of companies are offering staff the ability to work from home - up from 63% in 2004 to 77% in 2005. This benefits employees, who can meet family commitments and save commuting time, and firms, which can cut the cost of office overheads.

The proportion of firms offering childcare arrangements rose from 19% to 29%, as more employers seek to encourage women to return to work following maternity leave.

Over 90% of organisations provide private medical cover for at least some of their staff. Around 40%, allow employees the option of extending medical cover to their families.

On the negative side, the number of firms offering final salary pension schemes dropped from 30% to 20% last year. Employers contributed between 6.5% and 8% of salaries to schemes, with employees' contributions averaging 5%.

Company car provision is declining, with 17.5% of IT directors receiving cars. However, 50% received car allowances, averaging £5,700. Distribution and retail offered the highest car allowances, averaging £7,075, while public and voluntary sectors offered the lowest, at an average of £2,881.

Employers made bonus payments to 54% of IT staff. IT directors received an average of 15% to 28% of their salary, IT managers 13.4% and other IT staff 7.8%.

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