With inflation hitting a forty year high and the cost of fuel and household bills soaring, more and more employees will be struggling to make ends meet over the coming months, and thousands will experience debt and financial hardship. With crippling energy bills set to rise again in the Autumn, the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better meaning more people than ever will be plunged into fuel poverty, unable to cover the cost of heating their homes.
So, what can business owners and employers do to help their employees?
The most obvious answer is to increase pay if you can, and businesses are encouraged to try and get as close to inflation as they possibly can. However, with the rate inflation currently standing at 9.1%, few businesses will be able to afford to offer inflation-busting pay rises as they themselves will also be impacted by rising costs to their business. Many large organisations such as supermarkets and some banks have offered increased pay or one-off bonuses to help staff combat the higher cost of living, but where this is not possible, paying a fair a living wage is good starting point.
If providing extra cash is not an option, reviewing your benefits package to ensure its working for you and your workforce is a good alternative. There are many initiatives an employer can introduce to ease the financial burden employees are facing. Salary sacrifice schemes enabling employees to receive tax benefits on the cost of childcare or cycle to work schemes are easy initiatives to set up. Employee discount schemes or cash back cards are another option to help money go further. Interest-free season ticket loans will enable employees to make savings on annual travel passes to save on commuting costs and for those who drive, setting up car sharing schemes will help alleviate the rising cost of fuel. Time is also a highly valued commodity so consider offering flexible working or additional annual leave – whilst these won’t give employees extra cash, they can help with wellbeing and stress management. Ensure any benefits that are offered by the business are well communicated so that staff know what’s on offer and how to access it.
Employee Assistance Programmes
Remember that financial wellbeing and mental wellbeing are heavily linked and worrying about money can make existing mental health issues worse. To support employees in this area, consider offering access to an employee assistance programme that provides financial advice as well as assistance for people experiencing stress as a result of increased financial pressures. If this is not possible, signposting employees to organisations that can assist them such as moneyhelper.org will also help.
Learning and Development
Can your business offer better career progression and development opportunities to enable people to increase their earning potential? Enhanced learning and development offerings can enable people to learn new skills and increase their level of responsibility and progress within the organisation. Career development plans and succession planning can help in this area. In turn, this will also help the business by increasing skill levels and enhance staff motivation and engagement levels.
Above all, communication is key. Ensure that employees are kept informed of where the business is and what it realistically can offer to support its workforce. Clear communication will avoid employees feeling that the business is simply choosing not to help rather than being unable to. Compassion and empathy also go a long way so encouraging staff to talk about the issues they are facing and normalising conversations about financial concerns are valuable sources of support.
If your business needs help in this area, HR Overload can help you formulate an effective plan to support your staff through the cost of living crisis. Please get in touch to see how we can help.