Whether it’s soaring inflation, rising interest rates or changes announced in the Chancellor’s 2022 Autumn Budget, the cost of living crisis is impacting us all and hitting people differently.
Employees on a low income are impacted more as a bigger proportion of their income is eaten up by inflation. Those approaching or thinking about retirement will now need their pension pot to go further, raising questions about whether they can afford to retire or if retirement is sustainable. For others, the cost of servicing debt – be it credit card payments or mortgages – is leaving them with less money each month, forcing individuals to make trade-offs between necessities and savings.
Furthermore, numerous scholarly articles have proven financial worries can impact employee productivity, mental health, lack of focus at work and absenteeism.
Without the help, and at least some level of guidance from their employers, employees may be likely to believe there are only two possible ways out of this crisis:
- Increase in pay in line with inflation – this is one option to help employees cope, but this is not always possible, and even if it is, companies are unlikely to be able to keep up with rampant inflation.
- Cut back on spending – without a pay increase, employees are likely to resort to cutting back spending and savings including pension contributions, which may impact their retirement lifestyle significantly.
How to support your employees to navigate the cost of living crisis
In some (limited) circumstances, increasing staff pay or cutting spending may well be the only way out of this crisis, but in most other circumstances there are other ways employers can support their workforce to navigate through the cost of living crisis and improve their employees’ financial wellbeing.
We outline below some of the ways to help your staff improve the way they manage their money:
- Employee benefits and discount scheme
Discount schemes help employees save money on the things they want and need to buy. These can really make a difference now that people are seeing increased pressure on their finances. Making purchases via the employee discount scheme can help ease the financial squeeze because of soaring inflation. A recent survey by Opinium found that 36% of UK adults say they are already cutting back on what they spend.
- Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
This can help employees cope with the pressure that everyday life brings, and prevent personal problems impacting their work performance, health and wellbeing. An EAP can offer employees a wide range of support, including online resources, counselling, and referral services if they are struggling.
- Pension guidance and awareness
When times are tough financially, it may be tempting to reduce or stop pension contributions without understanding the long-term implications. In fact, according to research carried out by Barnett Waddingham, 7% of people plan to reduce their workplace pension contributions to keep up with the increased cost of living. This translates to 1.05 million people. Pension is not only one of the biggest perks in the workplace, but also an important, and for many, the only source of income in retirement. Therefore, it’s more important than ever that the benefits of pensions are well communicated to help employees avoid making decisions that they will likely regret later in life.
- Financial education
Financial education and guidance in the workplace can make a huge difference, giving employees the opportunity to learn about budgeting, money-saving tips, debt management, retirement planning etc. This can help employees make their money stretch further. Financial guidance can also encompass signposting to external services, for example, budgeting tools are available online such as Money Helper’s budget planner.
- Salary sacrifice schemes
Offering employees the option to exchange part of their pre-tax salary for ‘non-cash’ benefits such as childcare vouchers, company car, cycle to work scheme or additional pension contributions, is another way to help employees ease the squeeze on their finances without adding any extra costs to the employer. In fact, like the employees, employers also save money through the scheme by paying lower National Insurance contributions on the reduced employee wages – savings which can also be allocated to other areas of the business. Offering a salary sacrifice scheme is an excellent tool for employers to attract talent to the organisation.
The cost-of-living crisis is expected to be an unwelcome guest in the UK for some time so, supporting employees to build their financial resilience and improve their financial and emotional wellbeing is especially important right now.
For more information about how we can help you and support your employees navigate through the cost of living crisis, visit our SMART Employment page and read more about supporting your employees’ financial wellbeing, emotional wellbeing and physical wellbeing.
Amrik Birdi, Pension Consultant at Growth Partners
Amrik has a wealth of knowledge in pensions having joined Growth Partners from KPMG where he was responsible for advising companies and trustees on independent DC provider procurement exercises, DC investment strategy review, DC pensions strategy review, automatic enrolment compliance, and meeting ongoing governance requirements. Amrik spent three years before this as a Pensions Guidance Specialist at Pensions Wise helping members understand their pension and retirement options, empowering them to take control of their retirement journey. With a Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning and Certificate in DC Governance, combined with a Degree in Economics, Amrik is a fully qualified pensions consultant and able to offer strategic support to our clients on their options for workplace pension schemes and auto-enrolment.