Employee Benefits Awards 2012: Most effective benefits strategy in a public or voluntary sector organisation

YHA (England and Wales), YHA Rewards

YHA designed a cost-effective benefits package that was relevant for staff of different ages and life stages. It was launched in conjunction with a three-year cost-saving exercise designed to cut central overhead costs by £1.7 million, so it had to achieve return on investment, and engage and motivate staff.

The package also had to support the harmonisation of employees’ terms and conditions, which involved job evaluations for 700 hostel staff, some of them on varied salaries. The package also needed to be available to all staff, permanent and temporary, regardless of where they worked or their position.

The judges praised YHA for offering perks that really made a difference and were spot-on for its employee demographic. YHA Rewards offers a mixture of tax-efficient perks and discounts, including up to 10 free hostel stays; free YHA membership; a bikes-for-work scheme; a health cash plan; a telephone helpline for counselling, health and wellbeing advice; retail discounts; childcare vouchers; and a defined contribution pension scheme. YHA Rewards (excluding pension) costs £53 per employee, which includes £11 per person for P11D tax, which is employer-funded.

Kate Adderley, head of planning and performance at YHA, said: “We wanted to offer internal benefits, so we offered free hostel stays for our staff because they are into outdoor activities and pursuits.”

Effective multi-media communication methods were essential to reach isolated locations. For maximum impact, YHA Rewards was communicated at the organisation’s staff conference in February 2011. External providers ran presentations to 600 staff over two days, when staff could also sign up for the new perks. Also, YHA-branded employee benefits brochures were mailed to all employees and posters were put up in hostels and offices.

One judge said: “It really thought about what would engage staff. It used benefits as a key tool to maintain engagement in a period of cost-cutting.”


City Health Care Partnership CIC, Flextra
This entrant introduced a flexible benefits scheme to address employees’ needs in terms of their health and wellbeing, lifestyle and personal aspirations. A conscious decision was made not to give employees too much choice initially, and the scheme was launched with just nine benefits, including bikes-for-work, a pension, a health cash plan, additional life assurance, gym membership, additional holidays and dental insurance. The plan’s launch was communicated via roadshows, a benefits fair and prizes for registering on its website.

University of Lincoln, UOL Benefiting You
This entrant took steps to ensure employees valued its reward package during a time of pay freezes and changes to public sector pensions. It approached this by introducing total reward statements alongside a number of wellbeing initiatives, including Healthy Campus Week, which encouraged staff to have a go at a variety of sports.
The event also included cooking classes and osteoporosis checks.

The university has also introduced a wellbeing web portal, an employee assistance programme (EAP) and retirement planning, and will hold Olympic-themed activity days this year.

Read more about the Employee Benefits Awards 2012