Employee Benefits & The Digital Tide
Zeta | April 21, 2017

By Ramki Gaddipati, Co-founder & CTO, Zeta

It’s a fact that digitisation of workplace processes is helping organisations save money. Japanese insurance company Fukoku Mutual expects to save up to $1.1 million by replacing its white-collar workers with artificial intelligence (AI). However, digitisation may present some potential in helping organisations and employees save time too.

Our daily interactions with technology are at an all-time high due to the convenience offered, which translates to additional time for more productive activities. While the benefits of digitisation have simplified processes such as recording employee attendance, employee tax benefits practises are still stuck in the past. Organisations offer benefits to their employees to help them save tax. The Income Tax Act lists 51 benefits and perquisites that employees can avail, but the entire process of distributing them and verifying employee claims is a long, tedious process for HR managers.

Take the case of meal vouchers, for instance. To distribute paper-based meal vouchers, an HR manager would need to start planning weeks in advance. Orders will need to be placed, booklets would need to be stored, and shipped if the organisation works out of multiple centres. Then they would need to be handed over to each employee individually, while constantly trying to avoid physical damage, misplacement or pilferage. With any other employee tax benefit, issues like distribution may not necessarily exist, but processing employee claims is an equally long and tedious process. While manual verification may be the most monumental task, sorting through paperwork is what makes the entire ordeal overwhelming.

Employees aren’t exactly spared the inconvenience either, seeing that all claims need to be supported by bills.

It’s safe to say that no employee looks forward to storing bills, handling them like delicate snowflakes, filling in forms and keeping their fingers crossed and hoping that their reimbursements are approved in full.

The year 2016 may have been one of lost icons, but 2017 should be when employee tax benefits go digital. It’s something that needed to have happened already, the advantages digitisation would offer certainly includes convenience. If smartphones have successfully managed to help employees organise their business contacts, making the Rolodex an endangered desk-top article, why can’t they be used to better handle employee benefits? There is a huge potential for digitising the employee tax benefits space, and Zeta is doing exactly that with its line of Optima smart employee benefits.

Imagine employees receiving tax benefits and grants while being posted anywhere in the country; not having to worry about collecting meal voucher booklets or sweating over the fact that they’re not in town to file a medical reimbursements claim this month. Digitisation has the potential to change the way employees use their benefits too. With paper-based meal vouchers, the fact that they are bulky and are in the form of booklets makes them not only cumbersome to carry around, but also prone to damage. While meal cards help address these issues, they present another problem — more cards for employees to carry around.

It is definitely possible for one single card to not only help employees pay with meal vouchers, but also pay for medical expenses, purchase fuel and more. HR managers could send grants to a cloud account in each employee’s name that they could spend by swiping a physical card, unlike a debit or credit card. Add to that, access to a digital wallet and the wallets in our bags & pockets become smaller too.

Filing claims would also be a fully-digitised process. Employees would no longer need to worry about guarding their bills with their lives until their claim has been filed. They can use their smartphones to click photos of their bills and file claims on-the-go through an app. Keeping track of these claims would also be possible via the same app and necessary rectifications wouldn’t need to wait till the next month. Not only would the ability to file claims on-the-go make the process more convenient for employees, organisations could potentially save the hours of productivity that are typically lost to their employees filling up claims forms.

The lack of convenience inherent to current employee benefits practises not only makes them seem less appealing to employees, but organisations too are reluctant to introduce them. But with digitised benefits, or making them ‘smart’ could potentially help employees save up to Rs.80,000 a year while HR managers could save up to 90 percent of their time and resources.

Why 2017 would be the year of digitised tax benefits is not because the rising digital tide would inevitably consume it. It would be because of the sheer magnitude of the advantages it would present to employees and organisations alike.

This article was originally published at Silicon India Magazine. You can read the original article here.

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