Employee Benefits Awards 2011: Most effective benefits strategy in a public sector organisation


University of Lincoln, UOL Total Reward

Like many public sector organisations, the University of Lincoln had traditionally taken a very formal approach to benefits, based on the public sector philosophy of offering generous sickness entitlement, holidays and pay, but demonstrating little in the way of creativity. To meet the needs of all its workforce and offer something that appealed to everyone, the university set itself the target of implementing a rounded benefits strategy.

Although it recognised its limitations, particularly with minimal budget available to invest, the university developed a wide-ranging package of benefits, which the judges felt demonstrated a great deal of creativity and ingenuity.

At the heart of its strategy was a focus on employee health and wellbeing. The university was clever in its use of internal resources, using existing staff members to run lunchtime classes, such as salsa dancing, for other employees; using fitness professionals at the university’s sports centre to devise training programmes; and using students studying in its health and social care school to practise massage and therapy treatments on staff. It also ran a Healthy Campus Week focusing on wellbeing topics, a two-day Healthy Heart event and introduced benefits such as a bikes-for-work scheme and discounted healthcare schemes.

To tie all this together, the university developed an interactive wellbeing portal. A key aim of this was to support employees and guide them to relevant benefits when needed. For example, an employee who reported feeling stressed would be directed to information about the university’s employee assistance programme and discounted health plans.

As a result of its initiatives, the average number of days’ absence per employee per year fell to 6.54 in 2010 from 8.29 days in 2009, and the cost of sickness absence fell to £821,000 in 2010 from £1.125 million the previous year.

The university’s work has also been recognised by its peers. It was invited to speak at the Education Competencies Consortium annual conference on the subject of motivating employees through non-financial rewards, and has received a number of enquiries from other universities wanting to replicate its approach.


Bradford and Airedale Health Authorities Childcare Support Service
This strong entry focused on working parents and carers, but stood out because of its range and innovation. Its strategy, covering staff across four NHS trusts, has been in development since 2002, and is designed to meet employees’ childcare needs given many work shift patterns with little flexibility. It also emphasises getting mothers back to work after maternity leave, due to the expense involved in replacing them. Nearly 100% of mothers now return to work after maternity leave.

Ministry of Justice and National Offender Management Service entered by Edenred
This was judged to be an interesting example of shared services, bringing together two previously disconnected childcare voucher schemes to achieve operational services and benefits. This is one of the first shared services models providing such benefits in the public sector. The approach also helped the organisations tackle problems associated with communicating with large disparate workforces spread over a number of locations.

National Health Service England and Wales NHS Pension Scheme entered by Hymans Robertson
Communicating around pension benefits to enable members to make an informed decision about which section of the NHS Pension Scheme to join was a very tough. Despite the huge scale on which it was required to do so, it came up with a simple communications strategy including personalised statements, pension modelling tools, roadshows and a DVD. It has seen good employee engagement as a result, but it is still relatively early days for this strategy, so it will be interesting to see what it achieves in the coming year.

Read more about Award winners