GNER’s home PC success fuels charity plan

GNER has donated a number of computers to charities across the UK following the success of its own home computing scheme. The train operator saw a quarter of its workforce take part in the salary sacrifice offer despite uncertainty over whether the company will still have its rail franchise. The Strategic Rail Authority is reviewing GNER’s franchise for the east coast main line, which runs the length of the UK, and the winner was expected to have been announced as Employee Benefits went to print. John Hayhurst, HR consultancy and business services manager at GNER, said: "We were unsure what the take-up was likely to be because when you consider this is a three year lease deal, for somebody to commit, it’s quite a statement to the company." A quarter of the firm’s 3,000 employees choose a home PC. As a result GNER donated 12 extra machines to charities including the Lymphoma Association and the Sue Ryder Charity, with the help of its home computing provider Computers For Staff. Hayhurst added that he was surprised that so many manual workers took up the offer, which was designed to make them more computer literate. "We wanted to get our staff onto computers. We’re quite a manual workforce – a third of our staff are moving, on trains or in depots, they’re not office based, so [computers] are not natural [for them]." But the company did make staff aware of the risks involved with setting up such a scheme, which it had originally delayed for two years because of similar franchising concerns. "We have put a special clause in the contract agreement that says if we don’t win the franchise and the future franchise owner decides it doesn’t want to run the scheme there’ll be a situation where [staff] have to pay the full amount which could be up to two years lease costs," he said.