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Scots accountancy firm address cost of living crisis with employee reward

Ashton McGill will reward its employees with local gift cards from January 2023, making use of a little known piece of government legislation

Dundee based Ashton McGill has come up with an innovative way of helping staff with the cost of living crisis whilst supporting the local economy.

The accountancy firm will give their team Scotland Loves Local Gift Cards, which can be spent with local businesses on everything from food to fuel, clothes to coffee.

Founder Alasdair McGill, who is also Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Dundee, says many firms are looking for ways of helping their staff during the cost of living crisis:

“Ashton McGill works with around 170 businesses in the UK. Innovation and encouraging businesses to think differently to meet current challenges is a focus right now, and one topic that comes up a lot in conversations is support for employees with the cost of living. An increase in salary is one option, however, this also means an increase in national insurance, which some firms can’t afford to do.

“Companies are becoming more aware of the trivial benefits scheme which allows an organisation to give their staff a non-cash gift, such as a gift card, of up to £50 with no tax or national insurance to pay. This is a really useful piece of legislation that firms can use to support their staff as costs rise. Contrary to popular belief, the £50 limit for each employee is per gift rather than per year.

“In theory, firms could utilise the trivial benefits scheme more than once a year if needed as long as it didn’t become a part of the employee’s regular salary or contract. It’s also worth bearing in mind that company directors are limited to £300 per year through the trivial benefits scheme, so the equivalent of 6 x £50 gift cards.

“From January 2023, alongside a pay rise, we’ll give £50 Scotland Loves Local Gift Cards to our team as an extra layer of support. As they are based all over Scotland, our staff can choose a gift card that is relevant to where they live, such as Dundee, Perth or Inverness. This allows us to localise the benefit we’re offering. The choice factor was important to us too, as staff can spend their gift card in many different outlets. Our staff are our biggest asset, so we have to look after them.

“If you give staff a cash bonus of £50 in their salary, not only do you have the tax and national insurance implications, the money goes into the general salary pot for the employee. A gift card, on the other hand, is more meaningful. It’s something that employees have in their hands, or on their phone, to physically buy what they need. And with the Scotland Loves Local Gift Card, it’s a push to explore their local area and support local businesses.

“Wellness is a big priority for employees now too, and there are various ways for organisations to meet the wellness needs of employees. At Ashton McGill, we offer a monthly self-care allowance, which staff can use to boost their wellness, from a massage to a new book. The Scotland Loves Local Gift Card could also be used in employee wellness programmes.”

Alastair holds board or executive roles at Dundee Contemporary Arts, 71 Brewing, Dundee Football Club, Tinto Architecture and Miconex and believes intervention is essential to stop towns and cities becoming desolate, saying:

“We need to make our places attractive, exciting and vibrant places to live and work, and I believe that employers have their part to play in that. We might think that towns and cities are suffering now but without intervention and support, we could lose many more local businesses. The Scotland Loves Local Gift Card is a great way that we can look after our employees, and ensure the benefit we give stays in the local economy, driving footfall to our Scottish towns and cities.”

The Scotland Loves Local Gift Card is part of the Scotland Loves Local campaign, which is spearheaded by Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP).

Kimberley Guthrie, Director of Operations at STP, said: “There are so many advantages to companies rewarding staff by using the Scotland Loves Local Gift Card. It’s great to see Ashton McGill embrace the programme in this way, particularly to help their team through the cost of living crisis.

“By using the gift card, businesses are not only directly supporting their staff, but other enterprises in their community. That sends a really strong message socially and corporately about a commitment to invest in the future of the area’s economy.”

Colin Munro, managing director of Miconex said: “Since the start of 2022, 46% of the UK population say they are either slightly or significantly worse off, however, cash isn’t always the best solution for employers.

“In our August 2022 research, we found that 85% of employees would prefer to receive a gift card to cash as part of their salary, because they are more fun to spend (42.1%), cash is seen as part of regular salary and used on day to day expenses (33.2%), and less guilt about spending a gift card on themselves (24.3%). And over 90% of employees said they’re keen to support local too. The Scotland Loves Local Gift Card ticks the boxes for cost of living support, care for local and unbeatable local choice.”