18 November 2019
We all want to live in a country where everyone has the opportunity for a decent life. 2017/2018 figures from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation highlighted that 14 million people are trapped in poverty which equates to more than one in five of the population.
According to the Foundation a large number of people classed as being in poverty are employed which highlights a contradictory trend between poverty and employment. They commented:
“Record employment rates are welcome news but have so far not loosened the grip of in-work poverty. Nearly all the increase is accounted for by children in working families - 4.1 million on last year’s figures. Currently two-thirds of children in poverty are in families with adults in paid employment and there have been especially big rises for families with single earners.”
What role can and indeed should employers take in helping their employees improve their financial and overall wellbeing?
One of the most important things to bear in mind is that workplace benefits are a crucial part of employee remuneration and in some cases the only source of affordable access to products for staff. Whether its savings, borrowing, protection or help with money management – it’s important employees understand what is available to them and how they can be maximised to support their overall financial health and happiness.
There are small things that employers can do that could have tangible benefits to people making it easier for them to cope with financial pressure. This could include providing means of saving below unattainable minimum monthly contribution levels, affordable borrowing without extortionately high interest rates, or even ways to help make travel more affordable. People’s engagement with long term savings such as pensions is not as high as we’d like, but when employees are struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table, it’s no wonder that thinking about their future income is not a priority no matter how much we or they want it to be.
Communication is also key – not only making employees aware of what you offer to help and support them, but making it ok to utilise these products and services without fear of repercussion or judgement. The language you use around this topic also needs to be engaging. Calling a budgeting seminar ‘money management’ or ‘budgeting’ will not get people through the door – something like ‘helping you to make your money go further’ is far more likely to fill the room and be more relevant to people
Removing the stigma associated with in-work poverty, or people feeling financially vulnerable, can really help to grow and develop a supportive and positive environment where people help each other and share experiences. It will benefit not just some employees but the whole culture and productivity of an organisation. This is not a 5 minute job, or a quick comms project. This is about empowering employees to make their own smart and well-informed decisions by using products and services through the workplace and in wider society as and when they need to.