Oliver Bonas redesigns benefits strategy to reflect core values


Lifestyle retailer Oliver Bonas has reviewed and restyled its benefits strategy in order to reflect its core values: work hard, play hard, and be kind.

With the majority of its 820 employees working part-time in stores, the organisation recognises that its benefits have to appeal to many different people, as well as being accessible for many employees who are not always online during the working day.

Its core values were key to the benefits review, says Megan Kennedy, HR manager. “Everything that we offer we want to fall into those categories to make sure that people are rewarded for doing a good job and for working hard; to make sure that they are kind and that we are thinking of the smaller details and to make sure that they can have a good time as well,” she explains.

“We wanted to make them as non-hierarchical as possible and really reflective of our diverse workforce.”

Benefits restyle

In 2015, Oliver Bonas carried out an employee survey and has based a lot of the changes to its benefits upon the results, as well as benchmarking what it offers against other retailers. The redesign was focused on the organisation’s retail staff and the demographic of this section of the workforce, for example, many are students or mothers who work on a part-time basis.

As a result, it introduced a number of new benefits in September 2016. One of the main changes it introduced was enhanced maternity, paternity, shared parental and adoption pay related to length of service.  Previously the employer offered statutory maternity pay but now, after three years service, it offers from six weeks full pay and four weeks half pay, up to 10 weeks full pay and 8 weeks half pay, with similar rates for adoption and shared parental leave pay.

Other changes included the introduction of private medical insurance (PMI) for its store managers and senior managers in its head office, as well as the ability for employees to buy holiday. “We don’t want [employees] to sell it because we want [them] to have more time off and to rest a bit more,” says Kennedy.

Oliver Bonas employs a lot of working parents and recognises the importance of offering flexible working patterns. “Most of our support office and heads of departments are female and work four days a week, or had a long staged return to work,” says Kennedy. “Men have childcare responsibilities too, so we offer different start and end times, or slightly reduced hours. We do what we can to make it work for the business but also understanding that the priority for them is getting that balance with their family, so getting that balance is something we feel really strongly about.”

The biggest change was putting all of its benefits on one platform and creating a tailored communications plan alongside this. “It was changing the actual benefits and enhancing what we have, but really it was about repacking, rebranding [and] relaunching it to everybody,” says Kennedy.

Oliver Bonas already had the benefits platform, provided by Reward Gateway, in place for employees to access discounts and offers at a variety of retailers, but it has now added information about all of its other benefits and changes. “We completely branded the website so that it looks like ‘us’, and we updated all the imagery on there so that it stays really fresh and current with all of our products,” says Kennedy.

Benefits communication

The organisation relaunched its benefits strategy and platform with a targeted communications campaign that included emails and posters to create excitement. “We created launch boxes for all of our stores which had lots of party food, information documents and posters,” explains Kennedy. “For our [head] office we did a launch day where we ran tutorials [demonstrating] the live site, and a cocktail party. There was a lot of activity that went across the whole company for a week.”

Ongoing communication is vital to maintain awareness of the benefits platform. This includes engaging new starters with personalised emails and one-to-one tutorials for head office staff. “Throughout the year we have a calendar of different competitions to really get people engaged with the site,” says Kennedy. “Even if it’s something they’re not bothered about, and think ‘I don’t want to sign up for that’, at least they know it’s there. That’s one thing that has really stood out; even if people won’t necessarily use everything we’re offering them, they’re talking about it, and they’re aware of it. It’s really increasing awareness of what we’ve got. We didn’t have that before because everything was a policy hidden on the intranet somewhere, or randomly talked about in [an] induction and never mentioned again.”

Engaging employees

Employees have had a positive response to the relaunch; 77% of employees are active registered users of the benefits site, with a noted increase among the organisation’s offline workforce. In the year to September 2017, it had recorded 300 new registrations with an average of three new employees signing up to the site each week.

Oliver Bonas has no plans to rest on its laurels. Next year it plans to focus on what more it can do to support its employees, in terms of pension provision and healthcare and wellbeing.


At a glance

Oliver Bonas is a British independent lifestyle retailer, specialising in homeware, fashion, accessories and gifts. Its first shop opened in 1993.

The retail side of the business mainly comprises part-time store staff and store managers, while its head, or support, office, houses its creative team of designers and buyers, as well as HR, learning and development, accounts, operations team, and its website fulfilment team.

Oliver Bonas has 820 employees, 82% of which are female. The average age is 28, with most employees aged between 25 and 35.  The average length of service is two years.

Business objectives impacting benefits strategy

  • To expand its store portfolio across the UK.
  • To expand its support office.
  • To continue to invest in the learning and development and talent within its teams.

Career history

Megan Kennedy, HR manager, joined Oliver Bonas is 2012. Previously, Kennedy worked for three years in the HR team of a renewable energy company where she was responsible for forming all the policies and processes.

At Oliver Bonas, Kennedy has been involved in overhauling its benefits provision, and was a key part of the team that helped the organisation gain living wage accreditation in 2015. “We were the first British high street retailer to become accredited,” she says. “Our people are paid around £2 more than the average. [This] depends across different retailers, but we’re really leading the way. It was one of my projects to look at our pay, so that’s a really big deal, I’m really proud of that.”

The benefits offered by Oliver Bonas


Pension: Master trust, with standard contribution rates required under auto-enrolment. These currently stand at 1% from the employer and 1% employee.

Healthcare and wellbeing

Private medical insurance, employer funded, for senior managers and store managers.

Health cash plans, employee paid, available through the benefits platform.

Compay cars

Company cars for field-based employees only.

Family-friendly and work-life balance

Enhanced maternity, paternity, shared parental leave and adoption pay.

Childcare voucher scheme.

Flexible-working arrangements considered.


30 days as standard for full-time employees, 33 days for some senior managers.

An extra day per year after two years’ service up to 35 days a year.

Employees can buy up to five days holiday a year.

In an employee’s 10th year of service they receive an extra two weeks holiday, while they receive an additional four weeks after 20 years’ service.


Free lunch once a month.

Rounders club.

Subsidised yoga and zumba classes.

Free onsite gym at head office.

Bikes-for-work scheme.

Voluntary benefits scheme.

Season ticket loans.

Retail Trust: free counselling sessions available to all employees across the business.

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Profit-related pay: all employees receive the same percentage.