Oscar Mayer focuses on benefits with universal appeal

Oscar Mayer

With job roles ranging from new product development through to cooking and food preparation, Oscar Mayer recognises the importance of having a benefits approach that holds a universal appeal for all employees.

The food production organisation supplies prepared food to major supermarkets in the UK, operating from three main locations: Oscar Mayer in Chard, Somerset; Ferndale Foods in Erith, Kent; and Rowan Foods in Wrexham.

The nature of the business means that with such different job specifications, employee numbers can fluctuate. However, of its 2,300 employees, 1,700 of those are members of the organisation’s Millie benefits club.

The Millie benefits club was formed in 2000, initially named Millenium benefits scheme, and was launched by owner John Bigwood. Bigwood’s vision was to set up a benefits scheme that applied to everybody. As well as the name change to Millie, the scheme has evolved over the years to ensure that it stays true to its original intention.

The scheme gives employees access to a range of benefits. In 2013, it evolved to include an online portal, administered by Edenred, which provides staff with shopping discounts in addition to healthcare benefits.

Diverse workforce

The organisation recognises the importance of providing a benefits scheme that will appeal to everyone and that offers value for money. The scheme costs employees £2.25 a week, and has remained at this rate for 14 years.

Ken Martin, group benefits manager, says: “We don’t want to make the scheme so complicated that it doesn’t work. We also try to make sure that the scheme is driven by the membership; we always go via works councils and focus groups to find out what employees want. It’s interesting because you get some really good leads and feedback.”

With a multi-cultural workforce, it is important that the benefits scheme is well communicated to employees. “My job is to make sure that I can communicate and create benefits to help reduce staff turnover,” says Martin. “I think that’s the biggest challenge. The food industry isn’t synonymous with employee benefits, but here we do try to push the scheme. It’s very much driven by the people.”

As part of that communications approach, Martin makes himself accessible to all employees that may have questions about the scheme. “One of the big things with the Millie [scheme] is that people can contact me if they have a problem. We have works councils and we also have a Workplace Improvement Forum. We also have focus groups. Each site has its own in-house newsletter, so we have regular information on that.”

Oscar Mayer also ensures that staff are kept up to date and informed about the benefits on offer by bringing benefits to the workplace through events such as provider roadshows. “If we have a new provider that comes on board, one of the stipulations is that it carries out regular on-site visits or roadshows,” says Martin.

Employee health focus

A key element of the Millie scheme is its focus on healthcare and wellbeing, including membership of a Bupa-provided health cash plan. Employees can also include cover for their family at no extra cost.

In 2015, to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of the Millie club, Oscar Mayer ran a series of events, which included a benefits roadshow and competitions. It also introduced five new options to its health cash plan, including a flu jab, hospital stays, and increased its chiropody benefit by 25%.

Its focus on health and wellbeing has seen the introduction of healthcare professional on-site visits, for example, osteopaths, chiropodists and chiropractors. “I’m trying to expand the on-site healthcare because our philosophy has always been that we want to bring benefits to the workplace,” says Martin. “So for a lot of our people, if they want to see a healthcare professional during work time, they can claim their money back. It’s a bit of a one-stop-shop.”

Many of the roles at Oscar Mayer involve employees standing on their feet for a lengthy period of time, for example, on the production line of meal preparation. “A lot of our people are on their feet all day, so one of the big things is that the professionals highlight any reoccurring problems so that we can look at why that’s happening,” says Martin. “It’s much more convenient to do it this way.”

Employees are able to claim back the cost of the appointment with the healthcare professional through the health cash plan.

The organisation also recognises that the wellbeing of employees is paramount: staff have access to the Grocery Aid helpline, a benevolent fund for the grocery industry. It offers support to employees through counselling on issues such as finance, debt or bereavement, for example.

The future challenges for Oscar Mayer involve measures to ensure that the Millie Benefits Club remains a relevant and valuable benefit for its diverse workforce, through the development of the benefits website to bring clarity to employees.

Oscar Mayer at a glance

Oscar Mayer is a family-run organisation that makes and develops prepared foods for major UK supermarkets. It operates from three main sites: Ferndale Foods in Erith; Rowan Foods in Wrexham; and Oscar Mayer in Chard.

The organisation’s history dates back to 1935 when the Bigwood family opened its first butcher shop in south London.

Oscar Mayer has around 2,300 employees, working in roles that include new product development and food cooking and preparation.

Business objectives

  • Build and develop a highly motivated, skilled and stable workforce within a culture of empowerment, openness and trust.
  • Invest for the long term in leading-edge and energy-efficient technologies.
  • Work in partnership with customers to better meet consumer needs into the future.

Ken MartinCareer history

Ken Martin, group benefits manager, joined Oscar Mayer in 2001. Prior to this he worked for HSA (now Simply Health). When Martin first joined Oscar Mayer, he was tasked with sourcing bespoke benefits for the employees that were not available outside of the organisation. “The biggest thing I’m proud of is that I’ve managed to develop a scheme from an initial idea, and seeing it grow, negotiating exclusive benefits,” he says. “The biggest plus was when we were shortlisted for an Employee Benefits Award [in 2008].”

The benefits on offer at Oscar Mayer


  • Group personal pension to meet auto-enrolment responsibilities.

Healthcare and wellbeing

  • Private medical insurance for senior management, employer-paid.
  • Health cash plan for all employees.
  • On-site visits from health care professionals.
  • Personal accident insurance through voluntary benefits scheme.
  • Employee counselling and support through Grocery Aid.

Voluntary benefits

  • Retail discount portal.
  • Will writing.
  • Legal cover.

Company cars

  • Company car on job-need basis.

Work-life balance

  •  24 days’ holiday.
  • Childcare vouchers.

On-site services

  • Subsidised canteen.
  • Sports and social clubs on each site.
  • Discounts at local gyms.
  • Discounts on own products in staff shop.