As they looked to overhaul both their employee benefits package and their occupational health provision, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA / ‘the Society’) approached us to advise on both projects.

Firstly, the Society wanted to ensure that the employee benefits it offered to employees were competitive, promoted inclusivity, remained affordable and, most importantly, embraced sustainability. The RSPCA was looking to ensure it stood out as an employer of choice, and that its proposed benefits strategy had the potential to be award winning.

At the same time, it wanted to review its occupational health (OH) arrangements, as the existing provider was not meeting expectations. On this basis, a decision to approach the market to find a provider that would meet their unique employee circumstances was made.

Below, we’ve outlined how our Benefit Consulting team approached this and brought about positive change for the RSPCA.

Modernising employee benefits

Our Strategic Benefit Audit and Review was split into four phases:

  • Phase one: Given that we already look after the contractual benefits for the Society, a high-level audit was undertaken of the existing benefits, to ensure they continued to meet current market standards and aligned with organisational objectives. Benchmarking of key benefits from existing competitors, as well as market trend analysis, was also undertaken to ensure the Society remained competitive within its sector. We also supported the roll out of a comprehensive benefits survey to gauge employees’ appetite for a wide range of benefits within their provision, covering all areas of our six pillars – Job, Financial, Health, Support, Protection and Lifestyle. 
  • Phase two: We met with seven key stakeholders across the Society to set business objectives, benefit options and success criteria. This allowed us to get a top-down understanding of the key challenges within the different areas of the Society and start to further understand both its workplace culture and organisational strategy for the next five years. We provided a framework for discussions and focused on attraction and retention, current and future benefits offering, and culture. 
  • Phase three: Two face to face strategy workshops were held, in two locations, to allow a variety of colleagues to attend from the different areas of the Society; this included animal centres, hospitals and regional offices. These sessions were highly interactive and allowed colleagues to share their views in shaping the future of the RSPCA’s benefit strategy. At these workshops we delved into the impact demographics had on benefit preferences, before presenting detailed findings of the benefits survey results, alongside the key themes from the stakeholder sessions. 
  • Phase four: Finally, we presented a highly detailed Strategy Report with our analysis findings, survey results, key themes, and strategy session feedback. Within the report, we focused on the business case of investment, by outlining achievable recommendations that would help to drive savings and improvements across wellbeing and culture, in alignment with employee needs. This report was a great tool for the RSPCA to use to drive change, proving an outline of the return and value on investment. 

Our in-depth analysis of the survey results pinpointed key findings, such as 79% of respondents valuing the existing Health Cash Plan highly and, whilst there was a keen interest in financial wellbeing initiatives (29%) initially, following the strategy sessions and lengthy debate it was concluded that these were not as favourable compared to other potential benefits. This shows that using assumptions in benefit strategy design should never be done.

of respondents valued
the Health Cash plan

This process also identified trends (through both the strategy and stakeholders’ sessions) which allowed the Society to communicate better with its workforce on future plans and of its desire to build a benefits strategy capable of meeting both its objectives and those of its employees. Within the process we were able to identify savings of around £77,000 in year one, up to £143,000 by year three. The Society was not looking to 'save' this spend but rather to use it more intelligently, ringfencing it to offset the cost of implementing further recommendations made within the report.

Not only did the Society recognise the need for change, but they also agreed with consultancy recommendations which covered new benefits and wellbeing initiatives, which we are now in the process of implementing. These will help the Society improve organisational culture, provide them with a competitive Employee Values Proposition (EVP), which in turn can help improve attraction and retention rates, meeting its objective of being an employer of choice against its competitors. 

We are continuing to work in partnership with the Society on the implementation of these recommendations and driving towards the goal of achieving an award-winning strategy. 

Sarita Coleman, Head of Reward at the RSPCA, said: "As part of the RSPCA People and Culture Strategy, we committed to reviewing the current benefits proposition and enhance this to assist with our EVP. Barnett Waddingham were instrumental in helping us gain feedback through their employee benefits survey, key stakeholder meetings and the benefits workshops."

"The Benefits Strategy recommendation report written by Barnett Waddingham has helped us to understand what our colleagues want and what our future benefit strategy should be. I am sure that this will have a positive impact on our colleagues."
Sarita Coleman Head of Reward, RSPCA

Refining occupational health

Simultaneously, the RSPCA approached us to support in its efforts to find a new occupational health provider, as the current provider was not supporting the in-depth variety of assessments needed for the various roles within the Society or their absence management needs; a lack of clear and objective advice, third parties completing assessments and a lack of consistency across all areas including reporting. 

Our Wellbeing team has extensive experience in working with OH providers. Due to the extensive range of services and assessments required, covering everything from veterinary care through to open water assessments and firearms, finding a provider equipped to meet these requirements needed a thorough review of the OH market. 

Being their trusted advisors, we already had sight of all other wellbeing benefits and initiatives and brought these together in a comprehensive Request For Proposal (RFP) document, thus saving time and resource for the team. We approached ten OH providers, inviting them to take part in this tender exercise. Some providers declined to respond due to the extensive nature of assessments required, but the Society met with all the remaining five who provided a wealth of information, outlining how they could best support its needs.

By collating responses, we were able to challenge any queries we felt the Society might have and provide insight into providers through our in-depth due diligence process, looking at elements such as data security, financial security, administration and value for money. It was also important that any provider was aligned with the Society around charity values. 

As part of our standard provider review, we provided the Society with a personalised scoring card, to ensure the key points and objectives around the support needed where captured and noted throughout the meetings. This really helped them challenge the providers, and ensure their requirements were met throughout.

Our expert Wellbeing Consultancy team provided expertise and in-depth market insight alongside discussing the usual account management, services required, new starter medicals, referral process, pricing, and reporting. The Society really valued our input throughout this process, saving them time and resource, and resulting in them seeing us as an extension of their inhouse teams.

The RSPCA has successfully onboarded the new provider and is working in partnership with them to support the needs of both the employees and the organisation. The change in provider has meant a better partnership for the Society, ensuring they get clear guidance and a dedicated Chief Medical Officer on hand to answer any questions the Society may have in relation to medical conditions or advice, with a dedicated account manager providing a more comprehensive service. Over the next 12 months onwards the Society expects cost savings due to reduced absence and increased productivity and will now be reporting on this going forward. 

Jeremy Gautrey-Jones, Assistant Director of employee Experience, People and Culture at the RSPCA, said: "BW really helped us choose the right provider. From the start they researched the market thoroughly and were very clear with different providers on our needs, ruling out those that were not able to meet the intricacies of the work our people do."

"Without them we would not have sourced our new occupational health provider which has already saved us money and ensured a much improved service for our people teams."
Jeremy Gautrey-Jones Assistant Director: Employee Experience, People & Culture, RSPCA


Already a long-standing client of ours, we were delighted to have the opportunity to show how we can continue to build on the work we were already doing in partnership with the Society to develop its future employee benefits strategy, whilst also supporting the needs of both the employer and employee with the new OH provision. The exciting opportunity allowed us to make a real difference for the Society and its people by helping align its employee benefits to the Society’s wider modernisation strategy. 

We wanted to help create an environment where individuality is embraced, engagement is increased, costs are controlled and absence is reduced, all whilst looking after the emotional, physical and financial wellbeing of the Society’s colleagues.   

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