Jamie Coates, Attraction Manager at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and member of NHS Employers’ Reward and Recognition Network, shares how his trust is promoting the value of the NHS Pension Scheme and raising awareness of their options for flexible retirement.
Since joining the trust and going along to Reward and Recognition Network meetings, I have been developing our reward communications to make sure all our employees know about the range of rewards and benefits we offer at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (CWHT).
Many of our employees, particularly nurses approaching retirement age, told us they were unsure of their options on retirement and needed a better understanding of the pension scheme to make decisions and plans for their future. There seemed to be some confusion about the process for managing requests for flexible retirement, particularly requests to retire and return. As a result of this feedback, we decided to provide more support for our staff to help them understand and appreciate the value of the NHS Pension Scheme so that they have an awareness of the flexible retirement options available to them.
We published updated guidance on flexible retirement for our staff which outlined all the options available to them, including step down, wind down, retire and return, and taking early or late retirement. The guidance included a process map which clearly defined the roles and responsibilities for staff and employers, and the applicable timescales and deadlines.
We have also launched two pension workshops for our staff:
- planning for positive retirement - for staff considering retirement in the next three years; and
- mid-career financial planning – for staff wishing to take control of their finances.
Both workshops are entirely free and run for the full day. We allow staff to attend during working hours and we alternate the sessions across our various sites to maximise attendance. We encourage staff to bring their partners along to the sessions to better understand their joint financial position and consider their options for the future together.
So far, the workshops have been a great success. Staff have shown real enthusiasm and interest, and the sessions are fully booked very quickly. After going along to the sessions, employees told us they had a much better understanding of their pension benefits and options and feel more confident making decisions about their future. A section of the retirement planning course explains how staff can request to retire and return and we’ve already noticed an increase in the number of staff who are interested in continuing to work for the trust after their retirement.
We’re using our pension workshops as an opportunity to encourage staff to view their Total Reward Statements (TRS) and we are developing a communications plan to further promote TRS in our organisation. Last year roughly 36 per cent of our staff viewed their statements and I’m looking forward to seeing if this improves. Our TRS now includes information about our local rewards and benefits to help staff fully appreciate and understand the overall value of working for us. We’ve brought together all the information about pay, rewards and benefits together into one place on our staff intranet. The staff benefits page now includes branding to make the new format more eye-catching and to maximise the visibility and impact of the information.
Our rewards are grouped into five key areas:
- core benefits
- salary exchange
- lifestyle and everyday discounts
- health and wellbeing
- CW+ Work Perks.
Each area has its own colourful icon which helps to demonstrate the breadth of our reward offer.
Like many employers, a key priority for us is to retain staff with valuable skills and experience within our organisation. We see the work we’re doing to promote pensions and reward as an important part of our wider strategy to improve retention. We plan to run more pension workshops with staff over the coming months and to continue to promote our new flexible working guidance.
In a few months’ time we will be evaluating the impact of all this activity and are hoping to see lots of positive outcomes for the organisation and our staff.