Case studies

North East – Sustainable Future Switching off Paper Payslips

In Autumn 2021 the COP26 Summit took place in the UK, bringing into sharp focus the climate emergency that is incumbent on us all. Up and down the country, Councils, businesses and communities have never been more engaged in the protection of our planet, and COP26 was the impetus for many to act.

The NHS in the Northeast and North Cumbria of England has been working hard to develop a region wide ‘green plan’ and encourage all NHS organisations in the region to become more sustainable.

A simple and effective way to reduce the carbon footprint and the impact upon the environment is to switch off paper payslips in ESR, and enable access via the ESR online Portal only.

Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust has recently become the final NHS organisation in the region to switch to online payslips in ESR, meaning that the Northeast is the first region in England to fully make the switch to online payslips only.

Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust moved to online payslips in March 2022. Sharon Foster, ESR Lead, said:

Switching to online payslips was very easy to achieve and promoted the use of ESR in a positive way within the Trust. As an organisation it has helped us roll out several initiatives as we now know that all staff can access Employee Self Service.

In Spring 2021 The Northeast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust made the move to online payslips. Karen O’Brien, Director of People and Development, said:

Prior to the switch the majority of our workforce who are on the road working clinically, out and about with our patients, still received a paper payslip. I am pleased to say the move to digital payslips went smoothly, based on a comprehensive communications strategy, a trial in one area, helping staff to learn to use ESR to access information, and the ease at which it is accessible via the App.

We have saved paper and postage costs each month, contributing to our green goals for reducing paper. With staff accessing ESR each month to view their latest payslip they can also update their personal information themselves and we have seen an improvement in the quality of personal information, as well as spotting any issues very quickly.

The reduction of paper is not the only positive impact switching to online payslips is having on the environment. By moving to online payslips NHS organisations are helping to reduce carbon emissions as payslips do not need to be transported from the location of the printing company to NHS organisations. The payslip journey often did not end when the payslip arrived at the organisation; on many occasions a further local distribution journey was involved. At one organisation in the Northeast couriers had to deliver payslips to a further 80 locations. All this increased the carbon footprint of one very small piece of paper.

Andy Sykes, Workforce Systems Manager at County Durham and Darlington said:

To be honest, using paper payslips seems so old fashioned now. Making them available electronically, via ESR, has so many advantages and has made such a difference in so many ways, saving administration costs, the convenience of having payslips available at the click of a button – not to mention the sustainability benefits. In the past we had to post payslips to 7,500 employees and it would take two people a day each month, to sort the payslips into groups ready for delivery or postage -in the case of staff absent from work for whatever reason. From a sustainability perspective, there is the obvious benefit of paper saving, but the biggest sustainability benefit is that our couriers no longer have to deliver payslips to over 80 locations across County Durham and Darlington.

In addition to the many environmental benefits of switching off paper payslips it is also a much more efficient and secure way for employees to access their pay information. They can do this on any device at home or at work and it also enables them access to previous payslips and P60’s as well.

In one of the largest organisations in the Northeast, The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the move to switch off paper payslips has also proved popular with employees and improved efficiency. Commenting on this and the positive environmental impact it has had Chris Wilson, ESR Lead, said:

Before moving payslips online administrators spent a large amount of time identifying the correct location to send paper payslips internally to staff. 

The reduction in printing and transit of payslips across the organisation has helped us lower our carbon footprint.

The change has been popular with our employees who have been able to view their payslips on demand and before they are paid – 30,304 views total in April 2022 alone.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust have been using the online payslip facility for the whole organisation since December 2018. Lynn Biggs, Payroll and Pensions Manager, highlighted the benefits of this move.

Once the decision was made, communication was vital to ensure all staff were aware of the deadline for go live.

The benefits that we focused our internal communications on included the fact that staff would have access to their payslips two days earlier than with the paper version, allowing them to query any anomalies prior to payday. Also, using the ESR App ensures that they have access to their own payslip history whenever it is needed.

For the payroll department the obvious benefit is that our team are no longer not having to sort and mail out the thousands of paper payslips, and there are also no more lost payslips, so this brings additional security benefits for our staff. There were very few complaints about the change to online payslips despite the Trust being strict with not printing payslips for staff requests, this was only done if there was a direct need. We used an ESR email inbox and telephone line to help staff with their log on and any other queries. We also made changes to the termination form and have now include a reminder on the My ESS Portal Dashboard to ensure staff that are leaving the Trust understand their payslip data is no longer available to them once they terminate.**

On the whole, it was a very positive exercise and did not create any problems for the staff themselves or the payroll department.

The Northeast as a Region have embraced the move to online payslips and have realised a range of benefits from the switch, including convenience for the employee and efficiency for the organisation. However, the biggest positive impact is on the environment, this has never been more important than it is now.

Dr Clare Winter, Senior Net Zero Programme Manager - Northeast and North Cumbria Integrated Care System commented on the progress made in removing paper payslips:

It’s great to see that the Northeast and North Cumbria as a region has eliminated over 1.2million paper payslips which equates to 292 tCO2e per year. To put that in context, this is the equivalent of driving 529,000 miles in an average family car – approximately 23 times around the world! This relatively straightforward elimination has had a very positive contribution to reducing the impact of the NENC ICS and working towards net zero by 2030 – and becoming England’s greenest region.


Let’s go greener, cleaner, and safer.

If you want to play your part in making the NHS more sustainable, by switching off all paper payslips, then please contact your NHSBSA ESR Regional Account Manager.


* 300 estates and facilities employees within Gateshead Health NHS FT are employed by a Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Gateshead Health NHS FT and therefore do not currently have access to ESR. These employees do still receive a paper payslip.

**Each NHS organisation is a separate Data Controller for ESR. Payslips contain financial information which is not transferrable between NHS organisations, so it is not possible to transfer the documents between employments. It is important that NHS employees download all their payslips and P60’s before their termination date.


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