Personnel Today Awards 2019: Dunelm takes home Employee Benefits Award

The winners of the 2019 Personnel Today awards celebrate their achievements

The Employee Benefits Award, sponsored by Employee Benefits Live, was bagged by homeware retailer Dunelm for its comprehensive financial benefits strategy that helps staff build positive money habits and allows access some of their wages before payday. We profile their winning entry and celebrate the achievements of our other finalists.



Homeware retailer Dunelm recognises that a happy workforce is often hard to achieve when salaries in the retail sector remain among the lowest in the UK. But the introduction of a comprehensive financial benefits strategy has received overwhelmingly positive feedback and has helped staff feel more appreciated and confident about their finances.

Since 2016 it has offered a suite of socially responsible financial benefits provided by Salary Finance, including loans and financial education.

The financial education portal provides staff with information, interactive tools and on-demand explainer videos helping them to build positive long-term financial habits, including downloadable guides on areas such as: “How to handle and increase in income”, “Handling your money with children” and “Buying a home”.

Almost half of Dunelm’s 9,774 employees – many of whom work on the shopfloor and do not have access to a computer while working – have engaged with the Financial Wellbeing Hub.

It also became the first retailer in the UK to offer Salary Finance’s “Advance” loan, which allows employees to access up to 50% of their wages in advance of their payday. More than £200,000 has been paid to staff in advance, with 100% of users likely to recommend it to others.


Goodman Masson

Finance and technology recruiter Goodman Masson introduced The Benefits Boutique as part of a wider strategy to ensure employees feel well and are correctly rewarded. The range of benefits has been directly linked to challenges such as buying a house, repaying a mortgage, paying for home improvements, reducing student debt and supporting first time parents, as well as helping to fund exotic holidays and learning new skills.

Its mortgage fund has helped 14 people buy their first property. Participants deposit 20% of their basic salary for three years and Goodman Masson tops this up by 50% at the end of the period. Bonuses can also be deposited and the company will top this figure up by 33%.

One of its most popular benefits is the exotic holiday fund, with 17 holidays booked in the past year to destinations including New Zealand, South Africa and Mexico. The company pays for the holiday upfront and the employee pays it back over a year through 12 salary deductions.

The organisation also helps to pay off lump sums of employees’ student loans and offers a new parent loan for items such as a new buggy or nursery fees.

The benefits have helped it rank as the 9th ‘Best UK Workplace’ by Great Places to Work and 68% of its workforce has been with Goodman Masson for more than two years.

Great Western Railway

Maintaining a healthy and happy workforce can be a challenge in large organisations, Great Western Railway admits, but a comprehensive package of benefits – which it says is considered “the gold standard that other organisations try to match” – has helped it achieve this.

Thirty-five core benefits are on offer, including: a “Weekend First” pass that lets staff travel first class on its services on weekends six times a year, dental insurance, a free day out for employees and their families, a Christmas bonus and a bike scheme.

Staff and their immediate family are able to enjoy free leisure travel on all GWR services, as well as 75% off other UK travel and free or heavily discounted rail travel across Europe.

Local benefits and discounts are also negotiated by its colleague experience and people insight team. Staff are encouraged to submit suggestions for new benefits and discounts, which are then explored by the team.

It claims the range of benefits on offer has helped GWR become one of just 15% of companies in the UK to hold an Investors in People Gold Award. Eight in 10 staff now say they would recommend the company to a friend and voluntary employee turnover has remained below 4%.


Global professional recruiting group Hays, which has 3,200 employees across 93 UK locations, revamped its benefits platform to tackle declining levels of engagement with the benefits on offer. It wanted a package that would cater for an increasingly junior workforce, was accessible via mobile and desktop and offered financial wellbeing perks such as employee loans.

It developed a reward strategy centred around four pillars: My Money, My Health, My Life, My Working Environment and commissioned Benefex to produce My Choice, an easy-to-use benefits platform.

It used email campaigns, posters and a network of “My Choice Champions” to promote the systems’ launch, as well as a quarterly newsletter with a seasonal focus to remind staff of the benefits on offer, which range from holiday purchasing to will writing.

Eighty-six per cent of staff have accessed the platform and benefits take-up has increased, which it claims is 28% higher than the industry average. Critical illness take-up increased from 9.38% to 12.36% and holiday trading take-up increased from 30.12% to 40.65%.

There were also financial benefits to Hays and its employees. Hays is projected to make £127,050 of national insurance savings this year with employees expected to achieve £323,683 in tax and NI savings (excluding pension savings).

The HudsonBec Group

As part of its ambition to increase the number of companies in its portfolio by 2030, creative jobs, agency and media group The HudsonBec Group wanted to build a strong and reliable workforce, reduce staff turnover and better reward staff.

It introduced a series of benefits that it felt would improve employees’ personal and professional lives, using the feedback it received from its engagement platform and staff focus groups.

New benefits include: five weeks’ paid holiday when an employee has been with the organisation for five years, mini-sabbaticals after two years, discounted gym membership, the ability to buy holiday allowance and money to purchase books for training.

It claims feedback from a recent senior hire confirmed the benefits package swayed her decision to join the organisation, while other employees have commented that the updates have been a positive step forward.

Since September 2018 staff turnover has improved by 7% and when staff were asked to rate how impactful the new benefits package has been out of 10, a 7.5 average score was recorded.

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