Employee Benefits Awards 2011: Most effective use of a voluntary benefits plan


Cancer Research UK, CR-UK Rewards

The judges were impressed by this charity organisation’s belief that, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. When Cancer Research UK’s previous voluntary benefits scheme suffered from very low take-up levels, a lack of promotion and a sign-up process that seemed to discourage staff from using it, the reward team didn’t just give up. In the summer of 2010, a pilot scheme for a new platform was run and proved so successful that it was extended across the workforce in December.

The diversity of the new scheme was aligned with the organisation’s diverse workforce, a demographic that includes award-winning scientists and retail staff earning the minimum wage. Communication had to be tailored to target 3,500 employees across a corporate head office, charity shops, fundraising centres and research institutions. This segmented approach paid off, with the scientific community embracing the online shopping aspect and discounted gift vouchers proving popular with retail staff.

The aim of the scheme was to offer real value, at minimal cost, to all employees and to develop a healthy work-life balance. The pilot launch came a few months after the introduction of a new pay and grading system and just weeks after the annual salary review, so it was an ideal opportunity for the reward team to focus on what was important to staff.

Being a charity, Cancer Research UK was also able to leverage its relationships with its providers to its fundraising focus. For instance, its bikes-for-work provider Halfords has made Cancer Research UK its corporate charity and is expected to raise more than £500,000 in 2011, while voluntary benefits provider Asperity Employee Benefits took part in a street collection that raised more than £1,500 in February, and its health cash plan provider, Benenden Healthcare, is donating £5 for every employee who joins the scheme.

More than one-third of the workforce has registered for the new scheme, savings in the first six weeks topped £10,000, an average of 25 new users are signing up each week, and charitable donations of more than £10,000 are expected in 2011.


Zurich, Zurich OfferZ
This entrant launched its voluntary benefits scheme in June 2010 to add to an already popular flexible benefits scheme (91% take up) and catering to the diverse needs of its employees. The insurance firm filled the scheme with national and local offers.


BSkyB, Sky Benefits Extra entered by Asperity Employee Benefits
This entrant aligned its voluntary benefits with its business offerings by including free access to Sky products and services in the package, achieving a 95% log-in rate when the scheme was launched.

DB Schenker, DB Schenker Family Rewards entered by Asperity Employee Benefits
DB Schenker’s previous scheme only managed a 50% take-up over three years. The new scheme first targeted staff with a paper-based communication, was continually updated, and used SMS texts to reach the less computer-literate staff.

McDonald’s Restaurants, Employee Discounts
This entrant focused on making a standard voluntary benefits scheme stand out to staff. Communications included flyers, welcome emails on registration, details on the intranet, desktop wallpaper on staff computers, and presentations.

Nationwide Building Society, Fruitful Youchoose 2011 Salary Sacrifice Scheme
This entrant’s voluntary benefits dates back to 1998 and it moved online in 2005. The judges praised a good long-term scheme that has grown from four perks offered 13 years ago to 24 today.

Read more about the Award winners