Interview with Nick Court, reward and benefits manager at British Sugar

Nick Court, reward and benefits manager at British Sugar, found his way into the reward profession through employee relations.


After spending three years working as a forklift truck driver at Tesco, where he was also a trade union representative, an opportunity arose to move into the retail giant’s employee relations and payroll functions.

“I came in on a bit of a curve; I worked my way up from the ground,” says Court. “I looked after employee relations before moving into payroll for the UK. I was asked if I would be interested in doing the reward manager’s role in 2008. I initially said no, but changed my mind at the 11th hour.”

Court worked at Tesco until May 2013, and during his time there he oversaw pay negotiations, the implementation of new contracts for warehouse operatives, and played a role in negotiations with trade unions and the development of reward and benefits schemes.

Court then moved to British Sugar as reward and benefits manager. “I was looking for the next move,” he says. “I have always worked in retail, so manufacturing was a challenge for me. I was used to large multinational organisations and I was comfortable with the scale.

“The challenge of looking after benefits I have not worked on before was a big change. It was an opportunity not to be missed.”

Court is responsible for British Sugar’s car fleets and developing benefits strategies. His role also involves working with parent organisation Associated British Foods (ABF) to ensure its reward and benefits strategy is right for British Sugar employees.

Court’s most recent achievement was the successful launch of British Sugar’s online benefits portal, which boosted employee take-up of benefits to 53%.

Court takes a creative approach to benefits at British Sugar by ensuring he is visible throughout the organisation, so employees not only know their benefits, but also know their reward manager.

“I don’t want to know what everyone else in the industry is doing; it’s great to know that, but I want to know what is right for us,” he says. “I take a creative view of the role. I want to be visible: employees have a reward function, but don’t know who the reward manager is. Myself and British Sugar don’t want that; we want to be transparent, so employees know what we are doing, what we are about and who we are.”

When recruiting new employees into the HR, reward and benefits department at British Sugar, Court looks at getting team balance right. “What I bring to the team is different to what someone else brings,” he says. “It’s about how you get that mix. I look at how they are going to sit in the organisation, where their energy comes from and what drives them to be passionate about their job.”

Court sees part of his role as reward and benefits manager as continuing to develop the benefits already in place. “The most important reason I came into this organisation was to really drive efficiency in the reward area and to make it more visible as a function,” he says.

“The online portal was a real launch-pad and now we can look at how we develop the benefits here. The future is around growing what we already have.”


What has been the biggest focus in your new role?

Launching the online benefits portal: that’s the biggest thing. I have come into the role and picked up the annual pay review, but worked on launching the benefits portal and increased take-up of benefits.

What one tip would you give someone looking to get into your current role?

Have a real mix, be passionate about people and energetic about the specialism. But also look at how you will sit in the organisation and what your values are.

What would you like your next career move to be?

Ask me in 18 months; there is so much to focus on now. British Sugar is a great organisation, and so is ABF. There are so many opportunities, I see myself staying in the ABF group.