Published: 03/02/2005, Volume II4, No. 5941 Page 36

Many companies are taking advantage of a government initiative to help employees find home computers, as a way of encouraging flexible working and increasing IT skills. The home computing initiative allows employers to give staff a tax-free loan for a computer. But the NHS has been relatively slow off the mark.

East Elmbridge and Mid Surrey primary care trust was the first public sector organisation to introduce the perk after it was suggested by a member of staff. It was then widely publicised by human resources professionals in the trust. A project team including representatives from human resources, payroll, finance and IT was set up to oversee the programme. An external IT supplier was used to administer the scheme, cutting out a lot of the workload.

Twenty per cent of employees have now taken advantage of the benefit, with many also taking the opportunity to sign up for IT training via the European computer driving licence.

The PCT also saved£55,000 by exemption from tax on the salary used to pay back the loan.

Staff repay the loan via a small salary deduction over 36 months (and therefore get to keep the computer) with no income tax, national insurance or pension contribution payable on the sum. This means that, in effect, employees get a PC for about half the normal retail cost.

For more information on the scheme e-mail angie. foreman@eeandmspct, nhs. uk or visit www.

knowledgenetwork. gov. uk/oee/hci. nsf