Employee wellbeing is being impacted by the surging cost of living. But what can employers do to help?
Four months on from publishing ‘Get together to support mental health’, and everything is almost back to normal when it comes to Covid. Very rarely do I see someone wearing a mask in public. More offices are reopening (although hybrid working, or formally working from home for many is here to stay). But, under the surface, the impact of Covid-19 is still there.
The rise of inflation
What is becoming more of an issue for many now though, especially for employee wellbeing, is inflation. Recent cost increases are climbing at a level that many working age people have never experienced. However, one thing that seems to be missed in much reporting is that how many are also paying to commute again after an extended spell of not. This in itself is putting ever more pressure on financial wellbeing and mental health in general.
The plight of the poorest in society, and the real-term effects on even the most resourceful is widely commented on, and should not be ignored. There is, however, also a lesser commented on issue that is affecting many businesses. For an employee returning to the office who is now having to find another £100 a week to commute, alongside the effects of inflation, it’s resulting in them seeing a proportionately higher increase in their base costs versus 12 months ago too. Some might say you commuted before, so should have budgeted better. But, we all know the reality is that most people live to their means, and this attitude can have a negative impact on employee wellbeing. This approach also ignores that the cost of travelling has increased considerably for many in recent months on top of this.
Support for employees
UK businesses are not immune to inflation though. So there isn’t necessarily the budget to give people inflation busting pay rises (even if you wanted to). And the reality is that if everyone saw these inflationary rises, that in itself would likely exacerbate inflation further. But we need to do something for our people. And of course, it is an opportunity to build loyalty by showing employees you’re there for them.
At a time when healthcare is also high on people’s lists of desires, providing access to a Health Care Plan is one relatively low cost benefit you could offer as part of your support package. With many of these plans also comes a “free” retail discount scheme. Receive money towards expenses such as visiting the dentist or optician is great (it also might mean that people don’t skip an all-important examination). But saving money off escalating shopping bills is becoming ever more important too. Many Cash Plans provide counselling and support that can be structured to help people as well.
Another option, if you don’t do this already is to look at Salary Exchange (sometimes known as Salary Sacrifice). Asking employees to give up part of their salary doesn’t immediately sound logical, but it can make financial sense. Pensions are an area where the numbers involved can be significant, but there are a number of other options that you can provide including cycle to work schemes or green car (i.e. electric) leasing. Outside of salary sacrifice, there are also interest-free season ticket loans. There is another side to this, the provision of these can also help with your green agenda in many cases.
The importance of Financial Education
Making employees aware of these options and very importantly how to access them takes time, but can reap great benefits. Even if only a few take the offers up initially word of mouth within employee groups can have a dramatic effect over a short period so employers should consider running Financial Education and Awareness sessions to help.
Even a simple thing like encouraging people to make the most of their tax allowances can make a difference. People working from home may qualify for a tax rebate for additional household costs, or for cleaning, repairing or replacing specialist clothing (for example, a uniform or safety boots). As one large supermarket reminds us all the time, every little helps.
Need further advice?
What can Broadstone do for you? Well, clearly, we can provide you with access to a market leading Cash Plan, support services to provide the financial back up that people so clearly need. Financial education programmes, debt advice, the list is long, and the appropriate solution can be created for you and your budget.