Employee Benefits Award winners 2023

  • Grand Prix

  • Winner: GI Group Holding

    This prestigious award recognises the most outstanding entry among all of this year’s category winners.

    Gi Group Holding’s success in three categories – Best benefits to support menopause, Best benefits to support diversity, equity and inclusion, and Best benefits to support work-life balance and hybrid working – made it a clear winner for this year’s Grand Prix award, due to its impressive ideas and innovation across a number of areas.

    The judges particularly liked how GI Group Holding listened to employees to truly understand their needs and acted accordingly. This has resulted in the introduction of benefits including paid hormone replacement therapy (HRT), loans for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), a work-from-anywhere policy and flexible working arrangements for employees experiencing menopause symptoms or going through IVF.

    Overall, the judges were incredibly impressed with how the organisation’s approach to benefits strategy resulted in improvements in employees’ perception of its culture. Its success in several categories demonstrates that it does not shy away from transforming its benefits proposition.

    The judges said: "A strong strategy linked to DE&I as well as the reward strategy and employee promise. The menopause benefits and conversation are unique, simple and impactful."

    The winner said: "It’s amazing to win this award; we’re so pleased that people can see our innovative benefit improvements. We made sure to listen to our employees, looking at what we might need for the future and thinking about what we can do with benefits to help them. Cost-neutral benefits we’ve just rolled out include a neurodiversity loan to help combat long waiting lists and get employees’ children assessed quicker, an IVF loan and paid-for HRT prescriptions, to prove that we understand what they’re going through and will offer help and support based on what they say they personally need throughout their lives."

    Sponsored by:

  • Benefits Professional of the Year

    Winner: Jackey Buttery, head of benefits and reward, Travers Smith

    This award recognises an individual who is regarded as trailblazing with the initiatives and strategies they have introduced and has truly made their mark on the industry.

    Over the past 20 years, Jackie has truly made her mark on the employee benefits industry. During this time, she has consistently established herself as an innovator within the legal sector, taking responsibility for several industry firsts, such as the introduction of the first flexible benefits scheme within a law firm.

    To this day, Jackie continues to challenge the boundaries and is not afraid to think outside of the box, for example, enlisting the firm’s kitchen chefs to run live cooking lessons during lockdown or enticing men to attend a session on menopause by inviting Davina McCall to speak.

    As well as working tirelessly to ensure the organisations she has worked for have become known as employers of choice, she is also responsible for starting the careers of some of today’s senior reward managers and heads of reward.

    The judges said: "Jackie has built such credibility within the industry. There is clear evidence of an excellent benefits professional who, not only has a credible track record, but who continues to drive innovation in their current position. We can clearly see enthusiasm, integrity and a willingness to collaborate and develop the next generation of reward leaders."

    The winner said: "It has been such a busy few years, so to achieve recognition is brilliant. To focus on communication and to promote the small stuff as well as the big stuff, try and use technology to help with that engagement as well, to build out the width and depth of the proposition, is really exciting. To be able to devote time and energy to the wellbeing of people is also so important."

    Runner up:

    Gemma Woodward, people and culture manager, Netsells

  • Rising Star

  • Winner: Georgia Patching, Travis Perkins

    This category celebrates an HR professional who has been in the industry for no more than five years, but who has already had a considerable impact on the HR and business strategies of their organisation.

    Since joining Travis Perkins in her first HR role in March 2022, Georgia has certainly made her mark on the business. From the get-go, her communication skills and ability to engage with people have enabled her to build relationships with key stakeholders and departments across this business. This has proved to be a huge asset to the organisation in helping to drive the group reward communication and engagement agenda across the business.

    In her time with the organisation, Georgia has undertaken a number of projects, including redesigning the benefits newsletter, singlehandedly running the launch communications campaign for the Wagestream benefit, and designing and cascading checklists for managers to use to ensure new recruits know about their reward package, which has resulted in a rise in engagement with the organisation’s benefits platform. She has also played a pivotal role in the roll out of Travis Perkins’ cost-of-living provision.

    The judges said: "There seemed to be an effervescence and enthusiasm that came off the page when I read about Georgia. She’s clearly had a big impact on the business and benefits take up in particular from her creativity, enthusiasm and passion."

    Runner up:

    James Walsh, University of Salford

    Linzie Gilchrist, Wood

    Nicola Shepherd, Emcor UK

    Sponsored by:

  • HR or Benefits Team of the Year

  • Winner: Value Retail

    This category celebrates an in-house or HR benefits team that has worked to deliver benefits that meet the HR and business strategies of their organisation.

    The judges praised Value Retail for the way in which its team has delivered an excellent reward strategy for its workforce.

    The team, which comprises three members, is responsible for delivering excellence in all areas of compensation and benefits for Value Retail’s 1,000 employees, as well as setting the strategies and policies for the organisation’s pay and benefits provision. In 2022, its reward strategy was to support the organisation’s overall business goal by strengthening, empowering and reinforcing employees through its Feel Good programme and employee benefits. The team also wanted Value Retail’s benefits offering to align with its diversity and inclusion goal of ensuring it is inclusive in everything that it does.

    In 2022 alone, the team implemented a number of initiatives including: the introduction of trained mental health first aiders and wellbeing ambassadors into all of its European shopping villages, its first in-house benefits fair, menopause awareness sessions, a mental health in-app counselling and therapy service, an increased holiday allowance and enhanced maternity, paternity and adoption leave policies. It also held special events for national awareness events, for example, hosting ex-England rugby captain Gareth Thomas to share his story during Pride month.

    The judges said: "Value Retail’s benefits team have built a comprehensive model and delivered an impressive suite of results. Its focus on mental health is commendable. It will make the culture a much more comfortable place to work in."

    The winner said: "We’ve put in a lot of hard work over the past year and this is a great achievement. We’ve done a lot of work on our benefits and looked at gaps that could be filled with the help and support of our wellbeing ambassadors. We’ve done a lot around mental health as well as looking to support all of our employees, from our younger employees to those coming up to retirement."

    Runners up:

    British Airways Cadent FTI Consulting Northwood Hygiene Products Travers Smith

    Sponsored by:

  • Best Benefits to Support Menopause

  • Winner: GI Group Holding

    This award celebrates an employer that has implemented a benefits offering that supports employees through their menopause journey.

    Inclusion is at the heart of both GI Group Holding’s culture and reward strategy. When it launched its employee promise in September 2022, this included a raft of benefits that encompass diversity, equity and inclusion. Supporting employees experiencing menopause or perimenopause was a particular focus given 44% of its workforce are female and aged over 25, and 23% are females over the age of 40.

    To support these employees, the organisation introduced a menopause policy, paid hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and an informal flexible-working policy, which enables employees to alter their working hours as, and when, required to help manage the symptoms of menopause and perimenopause. In addition, it provided DE&I training for all employees and introduced a series of workshops on DE&I topics led by senior management.

    The judges were impressed with the level of engagement the organisation received.

    The judges said: "This was a really good, well-rounded approach. A key differentiator is the fact it is looking to tweak the programme in the future."

    The winner said: "The menopause is at the forefront now and when we started our work on it, we could see it gaining in prevalence in the future. We wanted our employees going through this to feel included, to feel that they work for an employer that understands what they are going through and is there to support them. We want everyone in our business to feel supported through the benefits we’ve put behind this."

    Runners up:

    BNP Paribas CIB (Corporate and Institutional Banking)


    Hampshire and Isle of Wight NHS ICS

    Herbert Smith Freehills

    Natwest Group

  • Best Benefits to Support Reproductive Health

  • Winner: Citi

    This award recognises an employer that has taken steps to support staff going through fertility treatment or pregnancy.

    The judges were impressed by the level of support Citi offers to employees on their journey to parenthood, regardless of gender, age, sexuality or current family status. In an industry that has not historically been known for leading the way in diversity, equity and inclusion, Citi has introduced comprehensive fertility benefits for all employees, including assisted fertility support as standard within its private medical insurance (PMI) scheme with a £15,000 lifetime allowance for all employees, which can be used towards the cost of diagnostics and investigations, as well as IVF and IUI. This can also be used to cover 50% of the cost of treatment for employees’ dependents.

    In addition, the organisation offers discounted, self-funded private maternity care, comprehensive mental health support, self-funded on-site or remote sexual health services, generous family-friendly leave polices including parental and maternity leave from day one of employment, and free back-up child or dependent care for all UK employees.

    At the heart of the organisation is its equitable and inclusive culture in which everyone is able to reach their full potential. It has, therefore, taken great steps to ensure employee feedback shapes its approach to supporting employees, and that benefits and initiatives are accessible to all.

    Overall, the judges were highly impressed with both the organisation’s strategy and its results.

    The judges said: "This is a market-leading benefit package which covers benefits for all stages of reproductive health. Communications are engaging and informative, and the results speak for themselves."

    The winner said: "We put this benefit in because we were asked by our employees and networks and it is a very inclusive benefit. It gives employees the promise of a family. We ask employees to share their experiences and stories through the service, and they are really grateful, so to have won is amazing."

    Runner up:

    Channel 4
  • Best Healthcare and Wellbeing Benefits

  • Winner: Wave

    In this category, the judges were looking for a successful health and wellbeing strategy that has helped to boost productivity or engagement through employee wellbeing.

    From its very beginning in 2017, employee health and wellbeing has been a key focus for Wave. It has actively worked to create a culture that promotes employee wellbeing, taking steps to break down the stigma of talking about physical, mental and financial health. To ensure its health and wellbeing provisions truly meet the needs of its workforce, the utility provider has established a people-centric culture, enabling employees to influence the wellbeing benefits and options available to them, rather than having these imposed upon them.

    Its extensive health and wellbeing package includes an early intervention medical scheme, paid miscarriage leave, parent coaching, a menopause policy, online gym classes, virtual walks, employee support groups and a number of talks for staff, for example, on nutrition, menopause support and policies, and burnout and trauma, to name but a few.

    In addition, its HR team and some line managers have been trained in ADHD and autism by psychologists in order to support individuals with these neurodiverse conditions and enable them to flourish in the workplace.

    The judges were impressed with how the employer is able to respond to specific needs, tailoring its approach accordingly. In 2022, for example, it introduced a financial education programme in response to employees struggling with mental health issues triggered by money worries. The results were remarkable with 78% of the workforce attending.

    The judges said: "A really impressive outcome for a small organisation. Some innovative solutions to address key challenges within the workforce."

    The winner said: "It’s absolutely amazing to have won this award. As a small [organisation] we haven’t got a massive pot of money and finance is a challenge, so we had to be creative and innovative and engage our employees. The health and wellbeing of our employees means such a lot. Healthy, happy people mean a happy workforce and great productivity. Our people mean an awful lot to the [organisation]."

    Highly commended:


    Runners up:

    Aldi Stores


    Gerald Eve

    Herbert Smith Freehills


    World Duty Free Group (Dufry)

    Sponsored by:

  • Best Mental Health Strategy

  • Winner: Natwest Group

    This award recognises an employer that has made a concerted effort to address employee stress and mental ill-health in the workplace.

    Proactively supporting employees’ mental health is a crucial part of NatWest’s aim to champion potential, and help staff and their families to thrive. In 2022, the organisation furthered its commitment to evolving its mental health strategy through its People Pledges and Mental Health at Work Commitment, with the introduction of a number of new initiatives. The organisation uses a data-driven approach to identify key business areas that require targeted interventions, for example, the need to take a targeted approach to mental health in its contact centres.

    The judges were impressed with the extensive nature of Natwest Group’s mental health support, stating that it truly offers something for everyone. In 2022 alone, it: increased the number of available counselling sessions from six to eight, introduced a digital cognitive behavioural therapy service via its employee assistance programme, launched new mental wellbeing and financial wellbeing hubs, introduced psychologically safe spaces to colleagues to connect and offer peer support via drop-in ‘cafes’, and launched a digital learning journey to support employees in building resilience in a hybrid world, among others.

    In addition, Natwest Group provides access to a rehabilitation programme, which offers early intervention in cases of potential long-term absence linked to mental health issues; a digital Stars of Remembrance campaign as part of its bereavement support, which enables staff to record memories of loved ones in a virtual night sky; and mental health training using interactive drama and creative learning to facilitate behavioural change, alongside a wide range of other programmes and initiatives designed to support employees’ mental wellbeing.

    The judges described the results of its approach as brilliant. In 2022, Natwest saw an increase in the percentage of employees who stated that their stress levels are manageable at work, a rise in the number of wellbeing champions within the organisation, increased monthly views of the wellbeing hub and a doubling in engagement with its Stars of Remembrance campaign.

    The judges said: "There’s something for everyone, which is difficult to do, especially when you are a large organisation with multiple locations."

    The winner said: "This is in recognition of the great work that Natwest does to make sure all employees stay well at work. We have put in place a lot of initiatives across the whole business and we listen to our staff and what they need. We’ve used all of our wellbeing pillars to make sure our offerings link back to mental health to make sure we keep well at work."

    Highly commended:

    Value Retail

    Runners up:


    Heathrow Airport Holdings


  • Best Public Sector Benefits

  • Winner: Mid Yorks Hospitals NHS Trust

    This category was introduced to recognise the steps a public sector employer has taken to implement a successful benefits package or initiative for its employees.

    Mid Yorks Hospitals NHS Trust was judged to be a clear winner due to its commitment to its benefits and reward strategy, which is considered to be unusual in the public sector. The judges commented that it was clear the employer was trying to think of everyone through its strategy and was making a concerted effort to do everything within budget.

    Implementing and operating an effective benefits strategy within the NHS can be challenging, particularly in the current economic climate. Like many other employers, however, reward and benefits are also crucial to the organisation’s ability to attract, retain and motivate employees. Its benefits strategy, therefore, is closely linked to the organisation’s goals, such as empowering staff through its provision of support for mental and financial wellbeing, increasing overall usage of its benefits portal, transforming and modernising its reward strategy via a digital solution, improving flexible and agile working, and developing a cohesive communications and engagement strategy.

    Faced with the rising cost of living, the trust took the decision to review its benefits provision to ensure it continued to support staff, and introduce new initiatives intended to help ease the pressures staff are facing. As a result, it carried out a cost-of-living communications campaign to increase usage of its benefits platform, moved from paper vouchers to digital e-gift cards within its recognition scheme, changed eligibility around flexible working requests and removed finance from its home and electronics salary sacrifice arrangement.

    The results speak for themselves. 100% of the trust’s workforce is now registered with its benefits portal, up from less than 50% in February 2022. The organisation has also seen significant cost savings from its use of salary sacrifice arrangements and its move away from a paper-based voucher recognition scheme, which has enabled it to further invest in its reward and benefits provision.

    The judges said: "A strong submission that shows how an effective benefits strategy can be delivered through the introduction of initiatives that are genuinely valuable to the workforce, while simultaneously capable of mitigating the challenges facing the wider organisation."

    The winner said: "It’s absolutely amazing to have won. For the NHS, it’s been a really difficult few years, so to get this award after everything that we’ve tried to do to help the workforce, is great."

    Runners up:

    Kirklees Council

    Leeds City Council

    Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

    University of Lincoln

  • Best Supplier to Work For

  • Winner: Vivup

    This award recognises an employer that uses its benefits package to position itself as an attractive employer, beyond merely offering its own products and services to its workforce.

    The judges described Vivup as "an organisation you can learn from". They were impressed with the way in which it listens to its people before acting, particularly during recent times of significant change.

    Vivup operates a people first strategy, with the aim of growing the business from the bottom up and supporting employees with the tools for career ownership and progression. Following employee feedback on the desire for greater visibility, it also worked to ensure there is transparency across the business, for example, internal transparency of salary bandings, a fair and transparent reward structure, clear and visible progression pathways, continuous learning and development for all staff, and a company share bonus pot, from which all employees benefit.

    The organisation has also taken steps to support staff during the cost-of-living crisis, including an additional cost-of-living pay increase in 2022 and facilitating early access to the bonus pot if needed. Its support also extends into enabling employees to effectively manage their work-life balance, with both remote and flexible working options available, and the provision of a desk and chair allowance to help staff maintain a comfortable working environment.

    Unsurprisingly, employees continually rate the organisation highly as an employer.

    The judges said: "This is an organisation that clearly cares deeply about how it supports and develops its workforce."

    The winner said: "All our staff work incredibly hard and if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be the business we are. We genuinely listen to our team, do what they need and invest in them. Over the past four years there have been many internal promotions and we’ve put people through training programmes. Every single thing we offer to our customers is offered to our staff; it’s about the here and now and also about the future."

    Highly commended:

    Sodexo Engage

    Runners up:


    Novuna (trading as Mitsubishi HC Capital UK)

  • Best Use of Benefits Technology

  • Winner: South Pole

    This award recognises how an employer has best utilised and adapted technology to suit its benefits package, its business aims and the needs of its employees.

    The judges praised South Pole for its innovative use of an emerging technology, commenting that they haven’t seen any other organisation doing so in this space.

    South Pole set itself the objective of designing and implementing a tailored global benefits package for the first time.

    The competitive and emotive nature of the industry in which it operates, means listening to employees and taking their views into account was key to South Pole when designing their global benefits strategy. In order to achieve the depth of information and data it desired, it utilised a neurotech people analytics platform. This uses short affirmations to measure a respondent’s reaction time, thus capturing their true feelings and removing unconscious bias. The platform is also suitable for neurodiverse individuals and those with visual impairments.

    The judges said: "This is a strong submission that effectively articulates the value that be added to an organisation by leveraging emerging and non-traditional employee engagement techniques."

    The winner said: "We are a fairly small [organisation], but in the past year have grown about 50%. To be recognised for the work we are doing is amazing and it’s made such an impact. In our industry, climate change, employees are so purpose driven and have more choice [of employer] to go to, so we recognised that we needed to grow our benefits offering. The fact that it has paid off with this award is amazing."

    Highly commended:

    Travers Smith

    Runners up:

    Barchester Healthcare

    BNY Mellon


    Emcor UK


    Sponsored by:

  • Best Use of Benefits to Support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

  • Winner: GI Group Holding

    This award recognises the measures an employer has taken to support inclusion and diversity among its workforce.

    In a closely-fought category, the judges were impressed with how attuned GI Group Holding is with its workforce in terms of how the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion is recognised, and aligned with both its business strategy and reward proposition.

    GI Group Holding has clearly placed diversity and inclusion at the heart of the organisation. Inclusivity comprises one of the six principles of its reward strategy, and DE&I is at the heart of its employee promise, which it launched in September 2022. This incorporates a wide range of benefits with a strong focus on DE&I, some of which the judges felt showed real innovation including: paid hormone replacement therapy (HRT), IVF loans, informal arrangements to support staff going through IVF or menopause, informal flexible arrangements to support staff with pre-school children, and a compassionate leave policy that accommodates employees’ chosen family.

    Its focus on DE&I is such that it incorporates this into every stage of its employee journey, from its onboarding process to exit interviews.

    The judges said: "This is an organisation that is putting its money where its mouth is."

    The winner said: "When we put our benefits together, we did it so that it made a difference to everyone. We know that one package doesn’t fit everyone, so we made sure that there is something in there for all employees at all stages of their lives, everyone can use the benefits."

    Highly commended:


    Runners up:


    Herbert Smith Freehills

  • Best Financial Wellbeing Strategy

  • Winner: Tesco Stores

    This category celebrates an employer that has a proactive approach to financial wellbeing and workplace savings initiatives for employees.

    Tesco impressed the judges with its financial wellbeing strategy, which was introduced in 2018 following a report which found that its employees were the second highest users of payday loans. As a result, the organisation developed its three-pillar approach – Learn, Borrow, Save – to help staff avoid payday lenders and improve financial wellbeing.

    In 2022, Tesco added a number of new initiatives to its strategy to help support staff through the cost-of-living crisis. These included launching a pay advance scheme, following a successful 13-month trial, to enable staff to access earned pay in time for Christmas, using its deals and discounts scheme to highlight how staff could use this to save money every payday, amplifying communications and enhancing its bikes-for-work scheme to make it more accessible to hourly-paid staff.

    At every stage, Tesco considered listening to employees and truly understanding their needs to be key.

    The judges commented that its approach felt supportive, rather than reactive to a particular scenario, as evidenced through strong results.

    The judges said: "For a large organisation, it has put a lot towards this with a lot of thought. Its innovation recognised its diverse workforce and attempted to reach everyone through all available means."

    The winner said:"We have such a large population of colleagues across a varied demographic that we really needed to look at how we can help all of them. The bulk of our colleagues are within the demographic that have been hit hard by financial pressures, so that is the focus of how we can help them at this time. It feels great to be recognised among peers for what we have done."

    Runners up:

    Brewers Decorator Centres




    Oxford University Hospital University Trust


    University of Salford

    Sponsored by:

  • Best Pensions Communications

  • Winner: Howdens

    This award recognises a successful strategy that helps to boost employee knowledge, and understanding, of pensions and the need to plan for retirement.

    The judges said: "A resilient, drip-feed style of communications went beyond what other firms might have done. It was trying to give a more personalized experience to employees."

    The winner said: "Our internal communications team have been brilliant behind the scenes in terms of not dumbing down the pensions communications and instead making them more accessible for our employees who work in factories through a multi-channel approach. We used targeted emails, flyers, posters, webinars and QR codes to make the message clear and accessible. We will carry on with this approach to encourage employees to ask questions about their pensions."

    Runner up:

    Herbert Smith Freehills

  • Best Pensions Strategy

  • Winner: Howdens

    This award recognises an employer that has developed a pensions strategy that best meets the needs of its workforce.

    The judges said: "Its strategy had clear commercial logic. Reaching this workforce must have been extremely challenging."

    The winner said: "We worked really hard with our pensions strategy. This is a result of a lot of hard work from when we closed our defined benefit pension scheme and set up our defined contribution scheme. We wanted to level up what we are providing across all of our employees, improve our contributions and educate our members to improve their outcomes."

    Highly commended:

    Herbert Smith Freehills

    Runners up:

    Geo Speciality Chemicals UK

    National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER)

    Stella McCartney

    Sponsored by:

  • Best Benefits Communications - Small Employer

  • Winner: Jacobs Douwe Egberts

    This award recognises an employer with fewer than 1,500 employees in the UK, that has demonstrated an effective and innovative approach to benefits communications, be it face-to-face, print, social or digital media.

    Jacobs Douwe Egberts was faced with the challenge of aligning all benefits across location and employee grades into one consistent reward offering. This required an effective communications strategy focused around the overhaul of the employer’s company car scheme. It took the decision to offer its salary sacrifice arrangement to all employees but needed an engaging communications approach, which highlighted the benefits of driving an electric car.

    The communications campaign used the Workplace platform to reach around half of its workforce, and replicated these posts on printed posters and TV screens around production sites. The Workplace campaign used characters to educate employees on the benefits of switching to an electric car, including the impact on the environment. The employer also held two events at one of its sites, and details from those were featured on Workplace.

    The campaign impressed the judges in the way it identified key outputs and success factors: it recognised the best methods of reaching employees that work in both its manufacturing and its research and development sites and delivered a strong campaign.

    The judges said: "This entry shows a very clear and concise communications strategy. It took a consistent and innovative approach that was backed up with detailed analytics".

    The winner said: "We are very excited to have won this award. We ran our communications campaign for nine months and converted to 25 delivered cars within 2022. It included a full video about what we want our green credentials to be going forward. The opportunity to share this and the journey we have been on is fabulous."

    Runners up:

    Auto Trader

    Bollore Logistics UK


    Travers Smith

    Palletways UK

    The Retail Trust

  • Best Benefits Communications - Large Employer

  • Winner: Mizuho

    This category celebrates employers with more than 1,500 full-time staff that have demonstrated an effective and innovative approach to benefits communications.

    Following a review of its UK reward offering, Mizuho created a harmonised suite of benefits that are relevant, inclusive and value for money.

    The organisation used targeted email communications to raise awareness among employees before, during and after its annual benefits enrolment window. It also ran a virtual benefits roadshow. The campaign aimed to empower staff to use the self-service functionality in order to reduce calls to the HR team.

    The communications campaign led to high levels of take up among employees; following the launch, the new benefits package saw 89% of employees submit their benefits choices. The targeted emails showed clear spikes in site usage and submissions.

    The judges said: "This entry demonstrated brilliantly clear communications, which were well executed and delivered brilliant results."

    The winner said: "The team put a lot of effort in; it was important to us that what we introduced was cost-neutral to the organisation. We aligned two businesses with different benefits offerings and re-invested savings we had made into increasing our pensions offerings and other benefits, to give more back to our employees."

    Highly commended:

    Department for Transport


    Runners up:

    Anglo American

    Barratt Developments

    Civil Service Penison


    Travis Perkins

  • Best Alignment of Benefits to Business Strategy

  • Winner: Ovo

    This award celebrates an organisation that demonstrates how its benefits strategy is aligned with its broader business strategy.

    As an energy firm, Ovo’s mission is to provide clean, affordable energy for everyone, and its people are the driving force behind its Plan Zero. In 2022, the employer focused on aligning its people offer with this mission. This strategy included giving staff more choice, flexibility, green benefits and a benefits fund to either buy benefits or take as cash.

    Ovo’s flexible benefits scheme offers support across four key pillars: health and wellbeing, financial and protection, lifestyle and Plan Zero, its green benefits.

    The Plan Zero benefits pillar includes carbon offsetting; plant a tree; bikes-for-work scheme; and an electric car scheme. Ovo also offers staff discounts on smart thermostats, electric vehicle charges and its own energy discount. It has also signed up to the Green Pensions Charter, offers a free mortgage advice service that plants trees for every successful purchase and remortgage application, plus a technology recycling service where its employees can buy and sell used technology.

    The judges said: "The passion and energy behind the scheme was evident. The employer lives the message in a significant way and the green pensions offering showed progressive thinking."

    The winner said: "We are very excited to have won; we put a lot of work into this. It happened over a long period of time and thoroughly felt as though we were thoroughly bringing our organisation together at the same time as creating something brilliant. All of the work was done in-house, so for the organisation to recognise what we believe to be a brilliant offer that completely aligns with our strategy, is something that everyone is proud of. And, more than that, what we believe in is doing the right thing for our people."

    Runners up:




    Scottish Power


    University of Lincoln

    Village Hotels


    Wilson James

    Sponsored by:

  • Best Benefits to Support Work-life Balance and Hybrid Working

  • Winner: GI Group

    In this category, the judges looked for strategies that offer greater flexibility to help support employees manage their lives outside work, as well as their own wellbeing and wider workplace experience.

    In 2022, GI Group took action towards creating a greater work-life balance as part of its employee promise, More than Work. In recognition that trust and autonomy were key components to its culture, the employer introduced flexible start and finish times, as well as reduced working hours. It also implemented a work-from-anywhere policy which allows employees to tag working time onto annual leave while on holiday.

    The employee promise was expanded to include a family flex arrangement for working parents, flexible working for employees experiencing menopause symptoms or going through IVF; increased holiday to 30 days plus their birthday; additional paid leave including enhanced maternity, paternity and adoption, enhanced compassionate leave, moving house leave, volunteering leave and refugee leave; two days unpaid leave; and flexible bank holidays.

    GI Group saw a decrease in turnover and an increase in its female population after launching the employee promise.

    Our judges were impressed with the innovative approach shown in this entry.

    The judges said: "The organisation listened to the needs of its employees and delivered forward-thinking initiatives. It demonstrated clear results and impact to the organisation."

    The winner said: "We put a lot into our benefits; we built it from scratch last year around our value proposition, so it’s great to get this external recognition. We surveyed our employees to find out what the fundamental things are that made our culture, so it’s based around who we are, what our value proposition is, and what we want to give back to our employees. It’s really about putting our employees the forefront and thinking about what do they need and how do we get the best out of people by giving them what they need."

    Highly commended:


    Runners up:


    Housing 21

    Vertex Pharmaceuticals

  • Best Flexible Benefits Plan

  • Winner: Leonardo

    This award recognises a successful strategy that has effectively delivered benefits through a flexible benefits plan.

    Leonardo recognised that in order to attract and retain talent with the critical technical skills needed in the aerospace sector, it had to offer a benefits package that differentiated the organisation from competitors. Feedback from employees suggested that the benefits provision could be improved with more flexibility, choice, wellbeing, financial and work-life balance among other aspects. Its aim was to offer greater choice that appeals to every generation’s needs.

    Leonardo introduced a flex allowance of £500 per employee to choose the benefits offering of most value to them at their life stage. This includes buying or selling holidays, a green car scheme, life assurance which can be flexed up to 10-times salary, individual savings account (Isa) and lifetime Isa, voluntary private medical insurance, a health cash plan, health screening, and others.

    The organisation had to use multiple communications channels to reach diverse on and offline populations, with different working patterns, and has seen great results in terms of employee take up: 25% of employees took up the lifestyle account in the first month, and more than 1,600 employees started saving into an Isa.

    The judges said: "This entry was a great example of how to align a people strategy with the delivery of a comprehensive range of benefits. It offered something for every generation, with a very wide range of communication methods in order to reach and engage all employees."

    The winner said: "It feels fantastic to have won the award. This has made a lot of hard work really worthwhile and shows that the plan is beneficial to employees so they feel they have a choice of what they want to spend their flexible benefits allowance on. It is important for the business; we have invested heavily in employee benefits. We are in a tough market to recruit and retain staff, that’s why good benefits, for all generations, is so important for us."

    Highly commended:

    Travers Smith

    Runners up:

    The Phoenix Group


  • Best Motivation or Recognition Scheme

  • Winner: Reed Specialist Recruitment

    This award celebrates an employer that has implemented a successful motivation strategy that uses either incentives or motivational rewards to help drive employee performance, engagement or retention.

    Reed Specialist Recruitment wanted to move away from static one-time rewards, so designed three schemes to award high performers: Golden Tickets, Thrive, and the R1 Formula Reed.

    The R1 Formula Reed annual scheme recognises £200,000-plus fee earners by unlocking exclusive benefits for the following year. Successful employees are invited to choose between private healthcare, additional learning and development opportunities or increased pension contributions.

    Reed Specialist Recruitment saw high levels of productivity and significant improvement in performance, as well as a reduction in turnover, following the introduction of the schemes.

    The judges said: "This entry shows some great innovative examples of recognition. The employer has clearly considered what was important to its staff, and then aligned the scheme with its company values."

    The winner said: "This means a lot because we have completely revolutionised our reward landscape. It’s great recognition; all of the planning started during the Covid pandemic and the [organisation] has revolutionised itself in that time. The benefits and reward schemes we offer play a part in that."

    Highly commended:

    Sopra Steria

    Runners up:

    Barchester Healthcare

    European Recruitment



    Lidl GB


    Welcome Break

  • Best Voluntary Benefits

  • Winner: University of Lincoln

    This award recognises an organisation that has either launched or revamped its use of staff-paid, voluntary benefits or staff deals.

    In order to optimise the employee experience among its student workers, the University of Lincoln used surveys and focus groups to identify benefits that would be valued. Using this feedback, the university revamped its benefits offering for this employee demographic, which included the Lin-Card; a prepaid branded debit card that gives them cash back at multiple retailers; a student individual savings account (Isa), with employer contributions supported by save-at-source deductions as an alternative to the pension scheme, and savings summit; a student-led thought leadership think tank with stakeholders exploring the educational aspects of student saving.

    The schemes have been successful in helping student workers learn how to manage their money better, and has also helped some save thousands of pounds through the Isa by utilising employer contributions.

    The judges said: "This entry demonstrates great innovation in providing a benefit that was clearly tailored to the demographics of a workforce. The employer made good use of surveys and focus groups and delivered a highly-valued programme."

    The winner said: "We are proud of the financial benefits we’ve been offering, they’ve been a real key focus for us. We’re doing a lot for our student employees in terms of cost-of-living benefits, including opening up individual savings accounts (Isa) for pensions contributions for them. We are trying to be a trailblazer in changing legislation for our younger workers, so we tried something different, proved it worked and then held an event with government ministers to show that we could create a better workplace."

    Highly commended:

    Aldi Stores

    The Mid Yorkshire Mid Hospitals NHS Trust

    Runners up:

    Axis UK Services

    Scottish Power