“I know how worried people are…what everyone needs to know is we are doing everything we can to keep this country and our people healthy and financially secure”. This was the opening quote from the Chancellor as he delivered his March budget. A budget that prioritised the welfare of the UK and its workforce, whether they be full time employees, self-employed or in the gig economy.
Prioritising health and financial wellness should naturally form part of an employer’s commitment to the wellbeing of their entire workforce including both salaried and temporary staff, not just during such globally worrying times but all year round.
Doing the right thing
Alarmingly only 37 per cent of organisations make efforts to promote financial wellbeing to a large or moderate extent1, yet the statistics around financial debt and its impact on health suggest that this number needs to be significantly higher.
Whilst an employer is not responsible for solving the financial struggles that some employees may face, they do have a duty of care to their workforce, and can play a vital role in delivering essential support and benefits to help improve, and where possible prevent health issues caused by financial stress.
The right offer will help reduce absenteeism and increase productivity, which is of course a high priority to any business however, above this, supporting the overall health and wellbeing of staff is the right thing to do.
Measures to help build a financial wellbeing offering
There are a variety of services and support that employers can incorporate into a financial wellbeing offering.
It is vital that an employer is approachable and creates an environment whereby employees feel safe and supported. This can encourage those that may be struggling to talk to their employer. Studies have shown that simply talking about our problems and sharing our negative emotions with someone we trust can have a positive impact on our health—reducing stress, strengthening our immune system, and reducing physical and emotional distress.
Other effective, easy-to-implement measures to consider are:
- Debt advice: Despite being an approachable employer and encouraging employees to talk, there is often stigma around talking about money. Employee Assistance Programmes can provide a crucial point of contact, giving employees access to round-the-clock confidential financial and legal support.
- Financial education: People can often enter into financial agreements without being fully aware of what other options are available to them or how to find the best solution for their individual needs. Providing employees access to financial educational resources such as tools, guides and tips on financial wellness can help to prevent this.
- Fair value loans: This employee benefit allows staff access to the best possible loan rate available to them, with repayments made directly from their salary. A simple process which also reduces the amount of credit checks when applying elsewhere.
- Healthcare cash plans: Providing employees with easy to access, cost effective insurance plans helps protect employees against the unexpected and can alleviate the financial concerns that come with having time off work. It also helps employers to avoid presenteeism and maintain a healthy work environment.
- Death benefit plans: Losing a loved one is always difficult and naturally can cause amplified stress levels and worry on the people left behind, one of which can be financial concerns. Offering death benefit cover to employees helps to eliminate this and gives peace of mind to the employee and their family that should the worst happen, they will not have the worry of additional financial pressures.
- Discounts and savings: Everyday discounts offer substantial long-term savings on regular purchases, helping employees save money in their day-to-day lives, crucial when finances are tight.
Companies need to ensure that their financial wellbeing offer meets the needs of their workforce and importantly, whatever is put in place is easily accessible to all staff. It’s no good having a fantastic programme in place if people cannot use it when they need it most, which in a lot of cases, is outside of the workplace.
A critical role for employers
Employee health and wellbeing is rising on the agenda, yet only two-fifths of organisations report having a standalone wellbeing strategy with a similar proportion being reactive as opposed to proactive. A surprising number when you think about how detrimental poor health and wellbeing is to a business.
What is encouraging is that mental health is a key focus where a strategy is in place, with 70 per cent saying that their organisations wellbeing activity is designed to promote mental health. This is great considering one report showed that 71 percent of workers were worried about telling their employer if they had a mental health condition, in fear of getting a negative response2.
It is said that the estimated combined cost of lost productivity and higher staff turnover represents between 13 and 17 percent of an employer’s total salary bill3. A cost that could be reduced and, in some cases prevented with the right financial support in place.
With financial worries intrinsically linked to mental health and subsequently employee performance, employers can play a critical role in helping their employees to talk about, overcome or even prevent some of their financial worries.
For more information on how Personal Group can help with your financial wellbeing offer and other employee services, please contact [email protected]
The facts and figures
Despite record employment rates in the UK, more than half (almost 27 million) of the UK adult population will have started the new year in debt, with almost five million owing over £10,000 in loans and credit and nine million with a debt of between £2,000 and £10,0004. These figures show that being in work doesn’t always mean that you are financially secure.
Unfortunately, there is a high degree of low pay in the UK with approximately 4.7 million hourly paid and 7.2 million weekly paid workers in low paid employment5. Add to this the insecurities that come with the rising level of zero-hours contracts and temporary work, and you can understand how people are struggling to make ends meet.
Although there is an assumption that the more money you earn, the better off you are, a recent report has shown that financial struggles are not just impacting low income earners. In fact, 49 per cent of employees earning over £40,000 per year are also affected by money worries6.
- Priory Group, 2017