The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which is spread across three sites in Wakefield (pictured), Dewsbury and Pontefract, had a strong response to the NHS plea for those who had recently retired to come back to help during the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic and enrol in its retire-and-return programme, with 117 people joining between April 2020 and March 2021.
The trust, which currently has 9,645 employees, has a steady stream of retire-and-return employees mainly within its vaccination hub, where the majority are deployed. Of the 100 staff members currently manning the hub, half are retire-and-return employees.
The pandemic and current environment has made some employees re-evaluate their work-life balance, says Arlene Wills, head of employee benefits at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust. For example, the programme can help workers with their financial commitments, such as a nurse who could retire at 55 on their NHS pension but must wait until they are 67 to claim their full state pension, leaving a gap of 12 years.
“The knowledge and experience these returnees bring with them is invaluable to our workplace as a whole, and particularly to our younger members of staff and our patients,” she says. “Pre-pandemic, take up of this programme was low but this has changed drastically in the last few years. We now have more choice and flexibility, and our wellbeing and benefits are now tailored to suit all needs.”
In terms of employee benefits for all members of staff, including those participating in the retire-and-return programme, the trust offers a comprehensive voluntary benefits package, in partnership with Vivup. Its health and wellbeing programme includes an employee assistance programme, which creates proactive and long-term wellbeing through the promotion of healthy lifestyles and positive change. It also provides expert and immediate assistance with 24/7 telephone support available 365-days a year, access to face-to-face counselling and a psychology team.
It is also developing a partnership with the Citizens Advice Bureau to help to lessen the impact of the current cost-of-living crisis through the provision of confidential advice to anyone experiencing financial stress.
In addition, through the trust’s salary sacrifice arrangements, employees can access a car lease scheme, bikes-for-work scheme, workplace holiday club for employees’ children, help with nursery childcare fees, and home electronics scheme. It also offers reward and recognition schemes to highlight the contribution that return-and-retire employees make through their roles, including the opportunity to nominate someone who has demonstrated the trust’s values and worked beyond their duty.
In August 2022, the UK government launched a consultation on potential changes to the NHS pension scheme, which could make it easier for retired and partially retired NHS staff to return to the workforce.
“The potential extension of NHS pension scheme changes would be welcomed, not only to allow our retire-and-return employees to continue working without affecting their pension benefits, but to help to ease pressures over the winter period and help to tackle the Covid-19 backlogs,” says Wills. “The workforce as a whole would also benefit from the presence of such skilled and experienced members of staff.”