A health centre and a charity are two of the organisations that are combining their employee reward programmes with support for the local community in 2021.

The Tavyside Health Centre in Tavistock, South West England and The Gellideg Foundation Group in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, are using their local Town and City Gift Cards as staff and volunteer rewards.

Tavyside Health Centre purchased £50 Tavistock Gift Cards for their 54 staff in 2021. The UK trivial benefits scheme allows businesses to give an employee a non-cash benefit of up to £50 without paying tax. Sarah Evans Practice Manager from Tavyside Health Centre said:

“When we think of the impact of the pandemic on the NHS, we tend to think of secondary care such as hospitals but the past 18 months has been incredibly busy for primary care services too, such as GP practices, who are the frontline for patients.

“The team at Tavyside Health Centre have worked so hard throughout, responding and adapting to changes as required. We didn’t have a Christmas party and instead planned a social event for July 2021. When the time came we realised it wasn’t to be and as the partners at the practice wanted to reward staff, we considered the best way of doing that.

“Vouchers are best for tax purposes but we wanted to support local too, so came up with the idea of giving staff our local Town and City Gift Card, the Tavistock Gift Card, which can be spent with multiple businesses in Tavistock. It was really easy to place the order directly with Town and City Gift Cards and we received it within a few days. Once the package arrived, we contacted Town and City Gift Cards to activate the cards. It’s a secure way to reward staff that supports the area but it also links to the NHS Green Plan, requiring us to look at every aspect of the business and become more eco-friendly. Encouraging staff to shop more locally rather than travelling is part of that.

“Most of the team live and work in Tavistock, or if they don’t live here, then they at least come here to shop. They are also very loyal to the place where they live. I imagine staff will use their gift card in different ways, from a meal out with their family, fruit and vegetable box deliveries, a haircut, coffee with friends, or some new clothes or running gear. It gives them lots of options as there are lots of great traders in Tavistock. Using our local gift card as a reward for our staff is one way that we can give back to our local businesses.”

The Tavistock Gift Card is part of the award winning Town and City Gift Card programme from payments provider Miconex, active in over 100 communities in the UK and Ireland.

Gellideg Foundation Group Manager Colette Watkins said: “Gellideg is a social housing estate to the north of Merthyr Tydfil in one of the most deprived areas of Wales. Gellideg Foundation Group offers a wide range of services aimed at empowering residents, improving their health and wellbeing, and developing innovative strategies to combat poverty. We also run a community pantry where we provide weekly access to fresh, affordable food to families throughout the borough of Merthyr Tydfil. Demand for our services rocketed during the pandemic and so did our need for volunteers.

“Our time bank volunteering initiative acknowledges our volunteers’ time commitment to Gellideg. Volunteers give what time they can, whether that is 9 hours per week or 30. We use the We Love Merthyr Gift Card as a gesture to thank volunteers. This is capped so that everyone receives the same reward, regardless of how many hours they volunteer.

“We looked at different time bank reward models and have previously given volunteers a single retailer gift voucher, but switched to the We Love Merthyr Gift Card because it has a double purpose. Not only can we reward our volunteers, but we can also support local businesses. It keeps the Merthyr pound in Merthyr.

“Volunteers said they preferred the We Love Merthyr Gift Card. They can still go to the nationals like Wilko and Boots but they can also go to the mobile phone shop and update their mobile, use their gift card to buy presents for others, or on personal items for themselves that they wouldn’t usually spend money on. People also used their gift card for family meals. Time together with family has become more precious lately. It has also opened up new businesses for them to try. It made absolute sense for us to use our local gift card.

“Around Christmas time, Gellideg’s trustees also rewarded our staff with a We Love Merthyr Gift Card. It has been all hands on deck during the pandemic, with staff performing jobs they wouldn’t normally do. It was a chance to say thank you, and we appreciate all you have done.

“There hasn’t been a negative for us in switching to the We Love Merthyr Gift Card. It’s straightforward to order; we place the order online once a quarter and record when the gift cards are given out to volunteers. Gellideg saw an opportunity to support our town centre with our volunteer time bank strategy, we are incredibly fortunate to have our own local gift card and by supporting it, we are also rewarded with a thriving town centre.”

Colin Munro is the managing director of Miconex and said employee wants from their rewards and incentives is changing:

“Employee surveys carried out since the pandemic are showing that over 81% state that their company’s benefits scheme doesn’t fit their lifestyle. Lifestyles have changed post covid. People are shopping locally, taking a greater interest in their own wellbeing and have a strong desire to support the businesses where they live. August 2021 GCVA data showed that 42.3% of Generation X shoppers (aged 35-54) purchased a local gift card for someone else to support local businesses or their local high street.

“84% of UK employees are more physically active since working from home and 39% feel they have an improved diet. Town and City Gift Cards offer lots of options for employees to build on new healthier lifestyles, with everything from sporting gear shops and grocers to wellbeing services and leisure activities. It’s a socially conscious employee reward that takes into account changing employee lifestyles.”