Claire Gore, strategic HR manager at Brent Council: When I was asked to look at staff health and wellbeing at Brent Council, I thought we needed a scheme that could support employees both inside and outside work.
This led to our staff benefits package, Lifestyle Plus. It offers a wide range of discounted leisure activities and vouchers for high street shops. There is also a 24-hour phone line offering everything from counselling to advice on home repairs.
We calculated that our return on investment could be significant. It costs between £4,000 and £8,000 to recruit a new member of staff – if we lower turnover by even 2 per cent this would save between £248,000 and £496,000.
The scheme comes on top of our existing benefits – childcare vouchers and an award-winning flexible working scheme. Together, these measures are a real chance for HR to help the business. If staff are healthier and happier, stress, absenteeism and [staff] turnover go down and employee relations improve along with productivity.
Lifestyle Plus was launched in January. The challenge now is to ensure there is substantial take-up by keeping up a steady stream of marketing to staff.
We will use Lifestyle Plus to help us recruit, as like all councils we are fishing for staff in a relatively small pool. Few local authorities, especially in London, offer a package like this, so it is something we can use to make ourselves stand out.
This is not to say we don’t want the rest of the local government family to join us – the more councils do, the better our reputation as a sector will be.
The big picture is that staff benefits help us take forward national policy objectives like public health, protecting the environment, and regeneration. Many of the offers promote health – discounts on spectacles and dental insurance for example. We have launched the government’s cycle-to-work scheme alongside Lifestyle Plus – this promotes fitness but also helps lower CO2 emissions. Another part of Brent’s approach is to arrange ad hoc local offers for staff, which helps local businesses.
Many of our staff live in the borough – our business, our workforce and our community overlap. The benefits package is a virtuous loop, which we hope will help all three.
- Claire Gore, strategic HR manager at Brent Council