EXCLUSIVE: Medway NHS Foundation Trust abolishes lowest pay grade


Employee Benefits Live 2017: Kent-based Medway NHS Foundation Trust has abolished its lowest pay grade in order to improve the financial wellbeing of its employees.

Speaking in a panel discussion session titled ‘The financial wellbeing journey’ at Employee Benefits Live 2017, James Devine, executive director of HR and organisational development at Medway NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The organisation genuinely does care about our staff, particularly those who are perhaps lower paid than our nurses or our doctors; 400 or 500 of our staff we know are in the lowest pay bracket in the NHS and I don’t think it’s right that we don’t support them.”

As well as removing the pay grade one bracket to increase wages across the board, Medway NHS Foundation Trust also implemented a payroll loan scheme, provided by Neyber. Since July 2017, 300 employees have accessed the payroll loan portal, and 61 staff have applied for loans that total just under £90,000. These are mainly for debt consolidation.

“For those who don’t know Medway as an area, it has some very deprived areas in it and we know from our analysis that most of our workforce live within a three to five mile radius of the hospital,” Devine added.

In the session, Devine spoke alongside Naomi Austen, head of reward at charity Axis, and Nick Weinel, reward director at logistics organisation DHL.

Axis introduced its fairer finance approach, again provided by Neyber, as part of its overall people strategy in order to address the financial wellbeing issues of its workforce. This included changing the workplace culture of certain employees within the business acting as loan sharks for their colleagues. DHL on the other hand brought in its payroll loan benefit in August 2016, after it experienced employees asking for payroll advances on a regular basis. To date, 150 DHL employees have benefited from the introduction of the payroll loans.

DHL has additionally placed a heavy emphasis on financial wellbeing education, using monthly webinars to help employees manage their financial health. Furthermore, employees who are refused a loan are given financial education to equip them with the relevant know-how to be eventually accepted for the loan that they require. This process has seen employees that were originally rejected for a loan be accepted six to 12 months later.

Weinel said: “Within DHL, the education was just as important as the actual product itself around the loan piece, but the monthly webinars we do are critical to the success of the overall financial wellbeing strategy and we’ve found where we’ve had employees who have been rejected for a loan, they’ve been triaged into the financial education piece where they’ll be able to attend a webinar on improving their credit score, where it could be one of a number of things but ultimately to get them in a better place where actually they can borrow money responsibly. It is that ongoing journey really.”

How organisations communicate and promote a financial wellbeing strategy can also have an impact on how it is received by employees. For example, Axis’ Austen described the organisation’s payroll loan benefit as ‘fairer finance’. She said: “We definitely didn’t sell it as a loan product, we sold it as a fairer finance journey because there is a negative association. It’s not just about loans, it’s a whole emotional journey with financial wellbeing.”

Communications tools that the panellists use to promote financial wellbeing benefits to staff include information presented with payslips, details posted on the staff intranet, newsletters and face-to-face communications.

In addition, the panellists also discussed what data can be collected and used to demonstrate the value of a financial wellbeing strategy to senior leaders. This can include statistics such as employee absence data, as well as engagement survey results, anecdotal feedback and case study results.

Devine said: “My question to the executive team was why wouldn’t we do this? […] I think the days of reduced gym memberships, free lollipops at the door are gone. I think staff are looking for stuff that’s tangible that they can really access and say ‘that’s the employee benefit that I’m looking for’.”