UKTV switches staff on to value of benefits

UKTV has been tuning its workforce in to the true value of its benefits package.

When a staff survey revealed widespread knowledge gaps about its employee benefits package, UKTV took the opportunity to communicate the real value of its perks.

Its communication strategy included a two-day benefits and wellbeing event last October, which focused on raising awareness about UKTV’s core benefits, including its pension and private medical insurance (PMI). The event enabled staff to speak with benefits providers on a one-to-one basis about the perks available to them.

Kate Whateley, interim HR director at UKTV, says: “This year has been about connecting HR to the business. We have a great HR team with lots of ideas and energy to roll things out, but we realised how much was already available to staff that was not really known, so it has been about making those connections, rolling some things out and taking risks, but communication has been the big focus.”

UKTV’s core benefits include a stakeholder pension scheme that all employees can join after their three-month probation period. The company’s pension contribution is 7% of an employee’s gross salary after six months’ service and 12% after five years.

The organisation auto-enrols employees into a PMI plan, provided by Bupa, as well as life assurance and personal accident insurance. Income protection is also provided after employees’ three-month probationary period. UKTV also offers staff a discounted dental healthcare scheme, provided by Denplan, which has a 30-40% take-up, says Whateley. Voluntary benefits are shaped to reflect the company’s young workforce: the average age of UKTV employees is 29.

Whateley says: “I suppose having that younger demographic means there are implications around communications, how you do things and what expectations are. From a benefi ts perspective, what it means is that it is important we get all the basics in place.

“We do have a generous pension scheme, private medical cover for all employees and income protection insurance, which are the things we wanted to get across at the events, and then it is about putting the fun benefits around these core offerings.”

A social committee of UKTV staff organises ‘fun’ benefits, which include a cheese and wine club, a choir, a football club and a knitting club. Halloween dressing-up competitions and Christmas decoration competitions are also popular with employees.

Positive environment

“Spending time doing things like this creates a positive environment and, ultimately, makes staff buy into the company and want to work hard for us, so it pays for itself,” says Whateley. She adds that from an HR perspective, the social committee is an enormous help because it is another group of people besides HR that is focused on making UKTV an attractive place to work.

UKTV has introduced paper-based total reward statements (TRSs) for its 200 staff to show the full value of its benefits, as part of its drive to optimise communication. Because of its relatively small workforce, UKTV decided to create the statements with Excel spreadsheets in house, rather than introduce online TRSs, to create a more personal feel for staff.

This personal approach also manifests itself in UKTV’s employee recognition and reward programme, which includes its monthly Living Behaviour awards. These involve employees nominating colleagues who have demonstrated one or more of the organisation’s desired behaviours (inventive, savvy, trust, ownership, passion) in their work for a chance to win a cash prize. A staff panel then selects one or two winners from four or five employees nominated each month to receive a cash award of £100 each.

A video of employees giving the reasons for their nominations is shown at the organisation’s weekly Tuesday morning meetings, which are attended by all staff.

The newest addition to UKTV’s recognition programme is chocolate bars containing instant reward vouchers, which managers present to staff. There are three possible rewards: a lie-in, a late start or an early finish.

Managers choose which to include in the bar, and then present it to the employee. Whateley says: “The nicest thing for me was walking past one of the meeting rooms and seeing a manager handing over one of the bars and the employee’s reaction to it. They were so surprised. It is something different.”

Learning lounges

Learning and development, both inside and outside the workplace, is another key part of UKTV’s recognition programme. Its ‘learning lounges’ are led by an internal department that wants to highlight what it is doing, or external speakers, such as representatives from mental health charity Mind, who come into the office to speak about their organisation.

Meanwhile, UKTV’s ‘learning curve’ offers employees the chance to apply for funding for non-work-related training. Staff can apply to the learning curve panel of staff members for a share of a £2,000 monthly fund to pay for any type of training they choose.

The panel receives three or four applications a month, which receive £300 to £400 each. To date, this funding has paid for video editing courses, saxaphone lessons, speech and drama classes, and even surfing lesions.

Whateley says the learning curve scheme has also benefited the company directly, with the employee who took the video-editing course then being able to work on video projects within the organisation.

“All these things are encompassed in the benefits structure and make this a great place to work,” says Whateley.

“When you are competing with far larger companies for the most talented staff, it is these things that make us unique. We have all the benefits and they wrap around the base offering, but ultimately it  is the people and the enjoyment of working here that help us to retain staff.”



Channel hopping

UKTV is a multi-channel digital cable and satellite television network that was formed as an independent commercial joint venture between BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, and Scripps Network Interactive, a TV and internet content developer, in 1997. The organisation has 200 employees based in Hammersmith, London.

The network comprises 10 channel brands: Dave, Watch, Gold, Alibi, Yesterday, Blighty, Eden, Home, Really and Good Food, which feature factual, entertainment and lifestyle programming. The organisation also runs 11 websites, and video on-demand services for Sky and BT Vision.

UKTV recently launched its own on-demand service for the Dave and Yesterday channels.

The network’s brands attract more than 41 million viewers per month.

Career history: Karen Whateley

Kate Whateley

Kate Whateley, interim HR director at UKTV, began working in HR administration at Harrods, where she was an HR officer from September 1996 until 2001. She moved on to become HR officer at social rented sector group the Richmond Housing Partnership.

Whateley left Richmond in 2002 and returned to the retail sector, joining Laura Ashley as assistant HR manager. She then became HR business partner at EMI Music, where she worked for five years.

Whateley joined BBC Worldwide as HR business partner in February 2010. She was then seconded to UKTV, co-owned by BBC Worldwide, at the end of 2011 to provide maternity leave cover. She will return to her previous post in February 2013.

Whateley says: “I love working at UKTV. It has been a brilliant year. From a personal perspective, it has given me an opportunity to pull together all the best bits I have learned in other [organisations] and share them.”

Case study: Vicky Walker, programme scheduler, Watch channel

Vicky Walker

Vicky Walker, a programme scheduler for UKTV’s Watch channel, values the organisation’s season ticket loan as the most important employee benefit because she lives outside of London.

“The season ticket loan helps me immensely and saves me a lot of money each year,” she says. “The whole process of applying for the loan is really easy and the repayments come out of my wages before they hit my account.”

Walker, who has worked at UKTV for two and a half years, also values the entertainment allowance, because it enables her to monitor content on competitor channels, which she needs to do as part of her role.

She considers her benefits package at UKTV to be more valuable than those she received from previous employers because of the greater choice it offers. She says she was persuaded to consider joining UKTV’s pension scheme after attending the benefits and wellbeing event held by the organisation last year to communication its perks package.

She says: “The pension scheme here is much better [than at previous employers]. We had a benefits event recently where we were told about the scheme and now, knowing how much I could be saving with my contributions and the employer contributions, I am looking into joining.”

Walker adds that the smaller benefits offered by UKTV are equally important, such as the ‘learning curve’ scheme, which enabled her to apply for funding for surfing lessons during a trip to visit her sister in Australia.



> Stakeholder scheme.

> Employer contributions of up to 12% after five years’ service. Minimum employee contributions start at 2% after six months’ service, rising to 4.5% after five years.


> Private medical insurance. Staff are automatically enrolled unless they opt out.

> Discounted dental plan available as a voluntary benefit.

Group risk

> Life assurance worth four-times annual salary available to all employees.

> Personal accident insurance worth up to six-times salary available for all staff.

> Income protection cover after one year’s service for all staff.


> 26 days’ annual leave.

> Option to buy additional days.

Salary sacrifice

> UKTV pays up to £1,000 for bike and equipment for bikes-for-work scheme.

> Childcare vouchers.

> Interest-free season ticket loans.

Employee assistance programme (EAP)

> Confidential helpline, coaching sessions.

Entertainment allowance

> UKTV contributes £25 to all employees’ Sky or Virgin television bills.

> Corporate gym membership for all staff.

Learning and development

> ‘Learning curve’ offers staff up to £1,000 towards a non-work learning course.


> Staff who donate to charity through workplace giving or fundraising receive  matched contributions of up to £150 or a day off work to spend with a charity.

On-site benefits

> Free breakfast cereals and hot drinks.