Company Servants' Welfare


Before the formation of the National Health Service and the provision of State support, such as Statutory Sick Pay and State Pensions, all such support had to be paid for by the recipient. There were many insurance schemes, both private and via trade organisations, which GWR staff could join that guaranteed benefits in case of illness, injury or death, and in retirement. Some of the schemes available would be advertised in the Great Western Railway Magazine or other publications and weekly contributions were often collected at source and benefits paid via the GWR wages department. The GWR had arrangements with various pension and benevolent funds such as the Ocean Accident and Guarantee Corporation which was promoted through the magazine whereby a subscriber paid an extra penny (1d) for the insurance edition. This would then provide a range of benefits covering time at work and whilst travelling on the GWR. There was also a 'Helping Hand' fund which was administered by the GWR Social and Educational Union and was financed by voluntary contributions and gifts.


All salaried staff were required to join a pension scheme, such as the Great Western Railway Salaried Staff Supplemental Pension Fund, the GWR Salaried Staff Retiring Allowances Fund, or the GWR Female Clerks Pension Fund. Membership contributions were a percentage of salary and were matched by the company. Each of these schemes published a Rule BookClick or tap to see some of these Rule Books which detailed who could join, what benefits were provided and the rules by which the scheme was governed. These would be subject to revision over time and new versions, or amendment sheets, were issued to members when apropriate.

Over time various funds were merged and others others came into existence, many lingering on after nationalisation. The biggest amalgamation of the various railway company schemes took place on 2nd January 1974 when the 'British Railways Board (Alteration of Pension Schemes) Order 1973' came into effect. This act served to consolidate a large number of legacy funds under the single umbrella of the British Railways Board.


The Great Western Railway also provided a certain amount of housing and accommodation for various grades of staff, ranging from Staion Master's houses such those at Radley and Culham, through workmans' houses as built in Didcot and more famously in Swindon, remote accommodation such as crossing keeper's cottages, down to rooms which may have been in barrack blocks or above stations and offices. In January 1932 the GWR announced a schemeClick or tap to see
the announcment, and some plans and photos from the magazine
for assisting employees to buy a house. The maximum cost of a house was limited to £1,000 and the employee had to find a 10% deposit.Interest was fixed at 5% per year and the maximum term to 20 years. A six page article, The Housing of G.W.R. Employees, appeared in the August edition of the Great Western Railway Magazine which went into great detail as to new housing estatesClick or tap to see
some plans and photos from the magazine
and houses built by employees using the scheme. This was followed in the October edition with three more photographs of houses built utilising the scheme. It may be noticed that the scheme's requirement for a large deposit precluded many lower paid employees who might have benefitted from it the most.

Great Western Railway Savings Bank

One scheme run by the GWR for the benefit of its employees was the operation of a Savings BankGWR Savings Bank rulebookGreat Western Railway Savings Bank
Rules and Regulations booklet from 1907
. and employees could elect to have part of their wages paid directly into their account. Forms were also available for the deposit and withdrawalClick or tap to see
some of these forms
of savings at stations. Interest was paid at about 3½%. The savings bank was first started in the early 1890s and, according to its nineteenth annual report, in 1910 it had 6,385 depositors, who paid in a total of £109,166, drew out £69,828 and had £495,504 to their credit at the end of the year. The London Standard of 8th May 1912 reported that '...An interesting sidelight upon the thrift of railway employees is provided in the record of the Great Western Railway Savings Bank, which had a balance of £564,863 standing to the credit of its depositors at the beginning of the year. In all directions, including the amount deposited and the number of new depositors, there has been consistent and unchecked advancement. One thousand one hundred and seventy-five new accounts were opened last year, and deposits amounting to £126,906 were received.'

Government legislation

Into the mix we must mention that various Acts of Parliament came into force over the years which affected how healthcare and pension schemes operated. The whole history is complicated but, in summary....
The National Insurance Act of 1911 provided for a National Insurance scheme with provision of medical benefits. Access to the scheme was via Approved Societies, who collected the contributions, paid out for treatment, and provided day-to-day administration with a worker free to choose which Approved Society to join. These Approved Societies collected their members' contributions and forwarded them to the National Insurance Fund. The Fund would then reimburse the societies' expenditure, such as the cost of treatment and administrative overheads. As well as societies created by trade unions and friendly societies, commercial insurers also established Approved Societies. In 1925 and 1931. Further Acts were passed amending the scheme culminating in The National Insurance Act 1946 which came into effect on 5th July 1948 and established the National Health Service we know today.
Varying levels of state pension was provided for via a number of different acts. The Old Age Pensions Acts of 1908 to 1924 provided a basic non-contributory, but means tested, benefit at a retirement age of 70, and the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Acts from 1925 to 1932 extended ts coverage and benefits. The Basic State Pension came into being in 1948.
Sometimes this changing legislation led to some employees paying excess contributions which had to be refunded as appropriate.

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