GSK wants staff to plan their future

GlaxoSmithKline wants its employees to use benefits to take control of their own future.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) UK’s headquarters in Brentford, Middlesex, provides employees with their own self-contained town. It boasts a high street with cafés, a sit-down restaurant, bike shop, flower shop, dry cleaners and a gym.

Harsha Modha, director, UK benefits at GSK, says: “We encourage employees to walk along our street and have a coffee break, work with their laptop and take clients away from their desk. If their manager is satisfied and there is enough cover, staff can also work from home.” [Profile continues below]

While the global pharmaceutical and healthcare organisation ensures its staff have everything they require for their day-to-day needs and encourages flexible ways of working, it also uses its range of benefits programmes to encourage employees to take responsibility for their own health and financial future.

The benefits, which include a healthcare trust, sharesave scheme and share incentive plan (Sip), performance-linked bonuses, and a trust-based defined contribution (DC) pension scheme, are all designed to promote individual empowerment and responsibility. Modha says: “Our benefits strategy aligns with reward and with the business goals; it promotes sustainable high performance, and it enhances employee engagement, accountability and empowerment through shared responsibility.

“For example, if employees contribute to our Sip, GSK will buy an extra share for them. Pensions are similar; if they put extra contributions in, GSK will match it [up to 7%]. Our healthcare trust is also about shared responsibility. There is a co-payment that is required by employees if they have treatments through the trust.”

Pension contributions

The organisation moved from a non-contributory to a contributory pension arrangement in line with its auto-enrolment staging date of 1 March 2013. Prior to this, staff were not required to contribute, while GSK put in a minimum 5% for each employee, matching contributions up to an additional 5% if employees chose to contribute. All employees were already auto-enrolled into the scheme, so it has a 100% participation rate.

To comply with auto-enrolment, GSK implemented a mandatory employee contribution of 2% with a matched employer contribution up to 7%. Modha adds: “We had a number of employees who were not making contributions, so this involved a series of communications to tell them about the changes and let them know that, from the March payroll, we would be deducting a minimum of 2%, with an equivalent increase in the company contribution.”

Modha says it was thought that the 2% contribution might see some staff drop out of the scheme, but one week into auto-enrolment [as at 8 March], there had been no opt-outs. GSK encourages staff to take responsibility for their own financial future, and simplifi es the task by offering three rounds of financial education workshops, in partnership with Wealth at Work. These focus on different age groups and points in an individual’s working life.

The first workshop takes place within two years of an employee joining GSK and ensures they are aware of all the workplace savings vehicles available to them. The second takes place midway through an individual’s career.

Modha says: “It builds on the previous one and goes into a bit more detail, asking questions such as: have you thought about additional voluntary contributions [AVCs] for the pension scheme or making your savings go further by using salary sacrifice schemes?”

Pre-retirement course

The third workshop is a pre-retirement course for staff aged over 50. GSK hosted a total of 80 workshops in 2012 and piloted additional workshops that were focused on a particular theme, such as sharesave maturity. The organisation’s three-year sharesave scheme, administered by Equiniti Group, has an annual enrolment window.

“The workshop was around ensuring employees in the sharesave scheme know what their options are when the scheme matures,” says Modha. “What should they do, sell the shares and take the money out or transfer them to a more tax-efficient vehicle, such as a self-invested personal pension [Sipp] plan or an individual savings account [Isa], or the pension scheme?”

The financial education workshops have helped to boost participation in various benefits programmes, says Modha. Two-thirds (63%) of GSK’s employees are in the sharesave scheme, and 85% participate in the Sip. It also has 80% take-up of its healthcare trust, which is managed by Cigna Healthcare.

The trust also encourages staff to take responsibility for their own wellbeing, with each employee who wants to take part being responsible for a co-payment of 15%.

“We educate employees that if they control costs, their premium remains low, because it controls the spend GSK has, and the 15% helps educate employees to be mindful of that,” says Modha. “Over the last five years, we have not had to increase our healthcare premium rates.”

Health and wellbeing

Being a healthcare company, GSK also offers a range of other health and wellbeing benefits that focus on creating a healthy, productive workforce. It has an on-site occupational health department, a physiotherapist and a gym, and provides an employee assistance programme (EAP) and annual health assessments.

It also offers a range of programmes called Energy for Performance, which focus on spiritual, mental and nutritional energy. “Over 200 senior staff and 8,000 global employees have gone through the programme,” says Modha. “We have seen strong results. People have indicated that they have better energy and are more engaged at work.”

As part of its focus on work-life balance, GSK also runs holiday clubs at four of its sites, so staff can bring their children in over the Easter and summer holidays. It provides financial support for working parents too, paying up to £100 to recruit a nanny or childcare provider, and up to £750 for childcare agency fees in a one-year period. Modha says: “We also provide emergency childcare support, up to £80 a day, for a maximum of two days a year. It can be claimed back through expenses as long as staff can show they needed emergency childcare.”

Employees can also take time off to participate in GSK’s volunteering programme, Pulse, in which they can travel to developing countries to work with non-government organisations (NGOs), learn new skills and give something back to the global community.

Total reward platform

Since 2009, GSK has given staff access to an online total reward platform to ensure all benefits are easily accessible, intuitive and that employees can make choices quickly. The first page employees see when they log in is their personalised online total reward statement (TRS), which shows their pay, all the benefits they use and their financial value.

“People can drill down to see further information,” says Modha. “For instance, if they want to see where the money is invested in their pension scheme, they can do that. If they want to change their contribution level, they can do that through the platform.”

In 2012, GSK’s online platform saw 261,000 log-ins, more than 26,000 benefit enrolments or changes, and 63,000 visits through to its benefits administrators’ external websites, which are linked to the platform.

Modha adds: “It is easy. Everyone has access to computers, even if they work on a factory floor. They can make their choices online and it is readily available. We want them to see that total reward is more than just pay and bonus. It includes the health and lifestyle benefits that we have, the savings opportunities we provide for employees, the financial education programmes and development programmes.”

Strategic priorities

GSK’s mission is: Do more, feel better and live longer, says Modha. “To meet our mission, we focus our business around five strategic priorities that aim to improve our long-term financial performance,” she explains. “We want to grow a diversified global business, deliver more products of value, simplify the operating model, create a culture of individual empowerment, and build trust.

“How that transpires to benefits is that our [reward team] is part of a service department, so simplifying the operating model means getting employees who produce drugs in research and development, who sell the drugs in a pharmaceutical and consumer business, to focus on those key activities without taking up time-consuming activities in order to participate in our benefits plans.

“We want to make that as easy as possible, so they can do their day job.”

GSK offices


GSK was formed in December 2000 after the merger of Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham, but the organisation dates back to the 19th century.

John K Smith opened his fi rst drugstore in 1830; the Beecham’s Pills brand was launched in 1842; and the Glaxo trademark was registered in 1906.

In 1989, SmithKline Beckman and the Beecham Group merged to form SmithKline Beecham, and in 1995, Glaxo and Wellcome became Glaxo Wellcome. GSK’s three main business areas are pharmaceuticals, vaccines and consumer healthcare. It researches and develops medicines and vaccines for a wide range of conditions and illnesses.

GSK is based in the UK, but has offi ces in 115 countries, with major research centres in Belgium, China, the UK, the US and Spain, and 70 manufacturing sites globally. It has 100,000 employees, 13,000 of them in the UK. Its average staff age is 42, average length of service is 12 years, and it has a 50/50 gender split. GSK’s group turnover for 2012 was £26.4 billion.

Harsha Modha


Harsha Modha has been director, UK benefits, at GSK for the past seven years and is responsible for the pharmaceutical firm’s benefits programmes. She works with stakeholders and partners in the reward team to design and implement UK benefits plans.

With more than 20 years’ experience as a pensions and benefits professional, Modha was previously pensions administrator at SmithKline Beecham before it merged with Glaxo Wellcome in 2000 to form GSK, senior pensions technician at Providence Capitol and pensions administrator at London Regional Transport.

“I joined Beecham at a fortunate time,” she says. “We were merging with Smith Kline and French [which became SmithKline Beecham] and I became involved with the changes in the benefi ts package. It was a really exciting time.”

When SmithKline Beecham merged with Glaxo Wellcome, Modha had the opportunity to move away from pensions and work on some of the organisation’s other benefits programmes, including its healthcare trust, two share plans, tax-efficient benefits and car scheme.

The plan that created the most challenges was the car scheme, she says. “SmithKline Beecham used to have a traditional company car scheme, whereas Glaxo Wellcome had a car ownership scheme. The biggest challenge for me was to move from a company car scheme to a car ownership scheme in 2011.”

Nicole Samson

VIEWPOINT: Nicole Samson, director, business planning and performance, GSK

Nicole Samson has worked at GSK for 23 years. Her current role is director, business planning and performance, which sees her project-manage in the research and development division.

Her favourite benefit is the annual bonus, which is paid as a percentage of salary. It depends on various factors, including individual performance, the performance of the organisation as a whole, and the performance of the employee’s department.

“The annual bonus, while not guaranteed, has given me the safety net to fund school fees,” says Samson. “This is an important investment in my child’s future. My daughter is now in her final year of school and about to embark on a new phase of her life as an undergraduate. “I feel a great sense of pride and achievement that I have managed to give my daughter a good education and a start in her career.”



  • Auto-enrolment staging date was 1 March 2013.
  • Trust-based defined contribution scheme with a minimum 2% contribution from employees and up to 7% match from the employer.
  • Legacy DB pension scheme with about one-third of UK employees participating.


  • Self-administered healthcare trust.
  • Employee assistance programme.
  • On-site health assessments and physiotherapist.
  • Emotional, nutritional and mental resilience workshops.
  • Discounted rates on dentists through voluntary benefits scheme.

Share plans

  • Three-year sharesave scheme with annual enrolment.
  • Share incentive plan (Sip). GSK awards a free share for each share purchased.

Bonus plans

  • All employees are eligible for a performance-related bonus, which is measured by individual performance, the performance of an employee’s department, and the performance of the organisation as a whole.
  • Long-term incentive plan (Ltip) for senior executives.

Company cars

  • Car allowance for eligible employees.
  • Company cars for job-need drivers.

Work-life balance

  • Flexible-working opportunities.
  • On-site facilities, including a gym, supermarket, restaurant and bike shop.
  • Financial payments for emergency childcare.
  • On-site holiday clubs for children over the Easter and summer holidays.

Other benefits

  • Bikes-for-work scheme.
  • Childcare vouchers.
  • Holiday purchase scheme, up to 10 days a year.
  • Voluntary benefi ts scheme.