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January 2023

New app for SMEs

Manufacturing company saves 80% on payroll processing costs with My SMART-e

Manufacturing company saves 80% on payroll processing costs with My SMART-e 1200 630 Growth Partners

Type of business: Manufacturing company
Date onboarded: 1 March 2022 

The company had operated a lean business model, relying on outsourced providers for tasks such as payroll and pension processing, but the costs seem to be ever-increasing. They had always outsourced their payroll and pension processing to an accountancy firm to unload the burden from the head office finance team. But the costs seemed to be getting steeper and the additional charges for administering one-off tasks such as furlough payments during the pandemic, or creating P60s, led them to look at their options.

With cost in mind, they turned to Growth Partners, who were able to take on their payroll and pension processing and their compliance while reducing their costs by a huge 80%.

“Growth Partners’ service fees are so reasonable – and even better, they’re set. So, no matter how many staff we take on or the one-off bonus payments we make, the monthly fee is the same. When we totalled up how much we were being charged every month and compared it to Growth Partners’ fees, it was a no-brainer.” 

More than payroll and pensions…

What started as a cost-saving exercise for the medical manufacturer, led to greater things as Growth Partners were able to assist with their employee engagement services too. 

The all-in-one solution for payroll, pension and employee engagement services means their employees have access to their payslips and pension pot via an app as well as a range of discounts, online GP services, counselling support and much more. 

“The discounts have really boosted morale among the team – being able to give employees the opportunity to save on everyday things such as groceries and kids’ days out is effectively a tax-free pay rise, at a time when every bit helps.”

Now almost a year into their partnership with Growth Partners, the company and their employees have expressed their satisfaction with the switch. Their employees tell them how much easier it is to have 24/7 access to their pay documents via the app as opposed to email and the discounts have been a real hit.

Our CEO of Employee Services, Scott Read said: 

“Our cost-effective proposition is something we’re proud of – we don’t want to bill our customers every time they ask for help, one fee covers everything. And the employee engagement support payment we give companies can make a big difference to their bottom line. We’re adding new services all the time to ensure our all-in-one solution for payroll, pension and employee engagement can really help businesses to grow.”

Find out more about our cost-saving solution 

To find out more about our all-in-one solution for payroll, pension and employee engagement services you can arrange a demo here. Or contact us and we’ll be in touch. 

My SMART-E all-in-one solution


How to attract and retain staff with a retention strategy [Your Free Guide]

How to attract and retain staff with a retention strategy [Your Free Guide] 1458 1152 Growth Partners

If finding and keeping great staff is important to you this year, an employee retention strategy is key.

Our retention strategy guide will help you create an effective wellbeing and engagement strategy for your business that will help you to attract and retain staff. The guide focuses on how you can add a range of employee benefits and wellbeing services in a cost-effective way, without necessarily adding additional costs to your business.

The guide includes:

  • The importance of having a retention strategy
  • The three pillars of wellbeing, future challenges
  • How to implement your plan

Download your free guide to develop a retention strategy suited to your business needs.


Did Blue Monday really happen

Did Blue Monday really happen and what did it mean for employers?

Did Blue Monday really happen and what did it mean for employers? 1800 1200 Growth Partners

This year Blue Monday landed on 16th January 2023 and no doubt you heard the phrase being used a lot.

Blue Monday is the term given to ‘the most depressing day of the year’ thanks to the cold weather, dark nights and often long wait for payday. The day – which technically relates to the third Monday of the year – is heavily linked to mental health and wellbeing concerns. In 2020, the Samaritans helped to address these issues with the birth of the Brew Monday campaign.

So, did Blue Monday really exist again this year, how much did it affect employees, and should you have been concerned about it?  We’ve had a look at whether Blue Monday really impacts employees each year, and some of the concerns employers should be tackling.

Does Blue Monday really exist?

The name Blue Monday was coined in 2004 when a holiday company tasked a psychologist to develop a scientific formula for the January Blues. The formula was to be used by the travel company to sell holidays; focusing on making things better by booking a holiday. Despite the lack of science and financial endeavours behind it, the phrase Blue Monday stuck and has been recognised every year since.

Several charities have raised concern over the focus on Blue Monday, and there isn’t, in fact, any evidence to suggest your employees will be notably more unhappy on any particular Monday in January, or , in fact, in January at all (Mind, 2016).

In 2009, a UK report found that January isn’t the time when your employees are likely to suffer the most with anxiety at all. Suicide rates tend to be at their highest in April and May, which is a key measure used by researchers to monitor mental health and wellbeing.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit and the UK went into lockdown in Spring 2020, mental health issues rose 10% with IFS reporting a quarter of people surveyed experiencing at least one mental health problem.

Although this suggests that Blue Monday doesn’t necessarily exist per se, the term has certainly helped raise awareness of the prominence of mental health and wellbeing in the UK, and the stigma around it is decreasing thanks to the inroads made by charities like The Samaritans and Time to Change.

Is Blue Monday important for employers?

The research into the Blue Monday concept suggests that your employees really can feel blue on any day and as their employer, you have an important role to play in supporting them through these tough times, whenever they occur.

January does tend to be tough going as it feels like a really long month, and it can often take staff time to get back into the swing of things after the festive period.

The start of the year is the perfect time to make a plan for investing time in staff and checking-in with them on their plans for a brand new year. Spending time with employees on both their professional and personal goals helps create a richer understanding of what’s driving them and their needs now and longer-term.

This is particularly prevalent with the National lockdown in the UK, adding to the pressures and the potential impact on employees’ mental, physical and financial wellbeing.

We suggest employers make health and wellbeing an every-day focus, but it’s great that Blue Monday helps to shine a spotlight on this, so it takes centre stage.

Recognition of the positive link between health and wellbeing in the workplace and long-term employee wellbeing is growing, and employers are benefiting from increased productivity as a result.

Three steps to take to tackle mental health and wellbeing in the workplace

1. Openly talk about mental health and feelings

Days like Brew Monday provide an informal and unintrusive way to address mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. If you are open about how you feel at work, especially if you are a leader, it might encourage others to do the same.

Remember your mental health can fluctuate as circumstances change. As you move through different stages in your life, it’s worth checking in at every milestone whether these be a birthday, moving house, or becoming a parent.

Is Blue Monday important for employers

2. Provide professional support for employees

Employee Assistant Programmes are an economical way to offer professional, confidential third-party support to your employees in various areas, such as financial worries, home troubles or mental health concerns.

3. Lead by example

Make sure you take breaks away from your desk, go for a walk at lunchtime, and finish work on time. If you see someone regularly putting in extra hours, approach this as an underlying signal for support or something that needs to change.

Although statistically, Blue Monday doesn’t actually exist, it is clear your employees can feel blue any day of the week.  As their employer, you have a responsibility to support them effectively through all of life’s challenges.

More support with mental health and wellbeing in the workplace

To find out more about Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) email or leave us a message here You can also call the team for a chat on 0116 340 3116


  • COVID-19 pandemic hits mental health, especially of the young and of women, and widens inequalities  –
  • Non work-related activities research and report – Hitachi
  • Busting the Blue Monday myth with #BlueAnyDay –
  • Seasonal spring peaks of suicide in victims with and without prior history of hospitalisation for mood disorders –

Team put the kettle on for Brew Monday bake-off

Team put the kettle on for Brew Monday bake-off 2040 1530 Growth Partners

From savoury vegetable pizza slices to indulgent hazelnut and chocolate doughnuts, employees at our Leicester head office have been enjoying some baking rivalry in support of the Samaritan’s Brew Monday campaign.

Samaritan’s Brew Monday was a reminder to everyone to catch up with a cuppa during what’s become known as ‘Blue Monday – the most difficult day of the year.’ Both the charity and we know that employees can feel ‘blue’ on any day of the year – so we backed the Brew Monday campaign and instead of discussing feeling blue, started a conversation over a brew.


Judged by our next door neighbour staffing solutions company Venquis two winners were celebrated. Employee engagement manager Dan was awarded Growth Partners’ Savoury Star Baker for his award-winning rich pesto pastry wheels and payroll administrator Fran crowned Growth Partners’ Sweet Star Baker for her famous Lotus Biscoff cheesecake.

Our Executive Business and People Manager, Katie Taylor said:

“We live in a world now where we are generally much more aware of our wellbeing, and the related topics aren’t such a stigma either with our friends, family or in the workplace. That said, it doesn’t mean that it’s always easy for people to talk about or acknowledge the impacts that their emotional, physical or financial wellbeing is having on them, and the colder, darker months of the year can make this seem a much harder challenge to face.

While Blue Monday is known for its focus on one of the tougher points of the year, here at Growth Partners we believe that every day is important. We have to acknowledge the fact that there are so many different challenges that individuals are facing personally, and we want to make sure we put a plan in place to support our staff whenever they need it.

As a HR team we work with our engagement manager and team managers to drive continued support and engagement to all of our staff on a regular basis both virtually and in person, through one-to-one catch ups, social office activities, reward and recognition, and of course providing external support services to allow the professionals to step in confidentially whenever required.

So, while we acknowledge Blue Monday, we want to encourage more and more businesses to focus on supporting wellbeing in a variety of ways, all year through.”

Read more about Blue Monday and what it meant for employers here. You can also hear our employee engagement expert’s view on why January is traditionally a bad month for business here.


Why is January traditionally a bad month for business?

Why is January traditionally a bad month for business? 1920 1280 Scott Read

I think January is a conflict. It’s an exciting time for businesses because it’s a chance to restart again – employees return to work fresh, and are raring to go because they’ve had a nice period of time off. Everywhere I’ve worked, I’ve always encouraged the business to have a bit of down time over Christmas, because it’s traditionally a difficult time to make meaningful decisions, so getting that down time really helps employees. Unfortunately, the flip side is that as January progresses, the whole concept of Blue Monday appears on the horizon and gets loads of press, both positive and negative.

The principle of Blue Monday was something that started as a positive to help identify, not just to individuals, but also to businesses, that there’s a time in that month of January where employees could be under increased stress and pressure, and genuinely just feel rubbish. The post-Christmas blues, cold dark nights, and the fact that their latest credit card bill has just arrived with all their Christmas food shopping, with the realisation that, “oh, I got through it all, but now I’ve got to pay for it all.” It can be stressful.

I think this year also, added into that, the fact that people are already feeling the pinch, people are already stretched, there’s already a cost-of-living crisis. So, I don’t quite know how Blue Monday will be perceived. It could almost be bigger and louder than ever, or it could also be just another blow to the UK economy or the UK employees that says “do you know what life’s hard, life’s difficult.” Another thing to bear in mind is the sheer amount of workers that have been striking as well in December, whose pay will be adversely affected by those number of working days, they’ve nobly given up to make the stand they’re standing. So, finances will be tight for millions of people this month.

The Blue Monday movement to encourage conversation, rather than just sitting there reflecting on how we feel, has turned this time of year into an opportunity as an employer to try and create a conversation, a debate, a safe environment, a forum, where people can go to get some advice, get some help, realise they’re not on their own. I think it was the Samaritans who started to take a slightly different approach, and again, I would certainly advocate for that. But again, the biggest challenges businesses have is that financial pressures are probably still the biggest or second biggest taboo that people don’t want to talk about. According to Lloyds Banking Group survey in 2019, 50% of UK adults believe discussing personal money matters is taboo. Another study by OnePoll in December 2021 revealed that over a third of British people struggle to discuss money, and one in ten people are not willing to discuss finances – even with their partner. So, whilst talking, sharing, and seeking help, support and guidance is the right thing to do, it’s still discussing finances is a sensitive subject area that so many people are just not prepared to visit.

So, the Samaritan’s ‘Brew Monday’ campaign is a brilliant idea, but it won’t work for everybody. What businesses have got to think about is a multi-layered strategy of what they’re trying to do. A conversation and a cup of tea is brilliant with the right people, but is there also somewhere confidential people can phone and talk to? Is it also layered up with a financial plan to try and support your employees? What have you done prior to Christmas? Had you avoided doing anything because you were waiting for the pinch after? If you haven’t done anything, January has got to be the perfect time to do something, right? If you can help employees, then do so.

In your experience of managing people and working in employee engagement, how is January in comparison to other months?

I think it’s a difficult question to answer, because if you work in employee engagement, you’re probably more attuned to having to do something to look after your employees every month anyway. So therefore, the shock of January is less of a shock, because you know it’s coming, you’ve tried to take that into account as part of your employee engagement strategy for the full year.

I think what you do see is an influx of people, clients, being more interested in coming up with engagement strategies at the beginning of the year. That could be due to spotting that there are some challenges and fixes that need to be made, or it could be just one of those New Year’s resolutions of “we need to do more of this”. Unfortunately, so many of these resolutions then fall away as the year unfolds, and you’re left with just activity at the beginning of the year. So I think there is a little more focus around employee engagement in the first part of the year, for those reasons. But again, it comes down to the strategy you start at the beginning of the year, needing to be planned out for the whole year. Not just “right, this is what we’re going to do this month” because it’s then very easy to forget that February and March are just as important for supporting employees.

I always remembered that February and March were almost the best months of the year financially, bizarrely. One is the time between paydays between January and February (or February and March dependent on pay date), which always feels shorter because it’s such a short month. The other is the fact that you don’t have to pay your council tax payment in February and March which always means there’s that little extra money in the pot, to think “what bill can I pay now with that money that would normally pay the council tax?” Obviously counterbalanced that council tax normally goes up again in April, but you know in reality there are little things like that which you still need to think about strategy wise, what you’re going to do to follow on from it.

To sit down and have a conversation in January is brilliant, or highlighting the levels of support is brilliant, but that needs to continue throughout the year. I think there’s never been a more relevant time to have a conversation than the current cost of living crisis, and I don’t see that that’s changing anytime soon. The Bank of England hiked UK interest rates by 0.5 percentage points to 3.5% in December, its ninth consecutive rate increase, and I suspect they could go up again, it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

What are the key signs to look out for when it comes to helping employees in January? 

If we’re talking about, as a result of the financial pressures, this definitely isn’t just about January. I think they’re the same signs throughout the year. People becoming reserved, people being distracted with other things, people not looking like they’re focused or able to concentrate and their mind is elsewhere, could well be because it is. And I think you’ve got to try and find time to sit and talk to people. That’s what your line managers are for. Are you gearing your line managers up with the right skillset and knowledge to be able to go and have those conversations? I imagine every organisation will be setting objectives for the beginning of the year. How many of those conversations are you asking about “how are you personally, how are you coping, what are your challenges away from work?” Not that you can necessarily create a bespoke plan for every individual, because each person’s circumstances are different, but it’s worth considering that kind of wellbeing check.  Again, it will really grate if businesses haven’t had any previous conversations and haven’t done anything to support their employees through the cost-of-living crisis. For those businesses that have tried to show their support and that they understand the impact, I think, and I would hope that that would earn them the right to be able to ask the question of “how are you coping?” Now, whether you get the truthful answer or not, nobody can ever tell. But I think if you’ve earned the right to ask how people are coping, the feedback and the anecdotal stuff that you get back should help you as a business shape what to do next.

What could businesses reading this do to address issues around wellbeing and morale?

I’m going to sound like a broken record but I think businesses have to have a strategy when it comes to addressing issues around wellbeing and morale. They have to think about the three key elements of wellbeing, four if you want to open it up into social wellbeing as well. They have to have a clearly defined strategy as to what they’re doing, where the employees understand the different strands of that strategy, what they’re trying to achieve, and why they’re trying to achieve it. I think then, you get an idea as to whether what you’re doing is enough.

I think when it comes to the moral side of it, it’s interesting. Sometimes you get a much more positive morale at a time where things are really dark and difficult. So just because you’ve got a brilliant morale doesn’t mean everything is fine from a wellbeing point of view. If I look at our team at the minute, it feels like we have a really good morale in the building, but I wouldn’t say everyone’s wellbeing is perfect, so I think they are two distinctly different things. And again, it’s about having an understanding of why the two are different. Some people might not be partaking in the morale because they’re struggling with their wellbeing, in terms of financial or emotional wellbeing, they could be stressed, and that could be a sign as to why they’re not getting involved in the morale element or the engagement element of the business. Conversely, you could have someone who’s the heart and soul of the office from a morale point of view, because it’s the best distraction from the turmoil that’s going on at home or in their own life. It’s not the same for everybody. You need to be focussed and care about everyone and try and come up with a plan for everyone, but the ones that are the biggest problems if you misidentify it, are the ones where they withdraw from work because of all financial pressures and it becomes a spiral, especially when there is no form of understanding or communication. Because they withdraw from work, their performance suffers. As a business then you’re under pressure, or there is a temptation to performance manage, which can put their job at risk, which then ironically means that their financial situation is more unstable than it was before.

If there was a book called “these are the signs to look out for”, it would be lovely, unfortunately there’s not, everyone’s different. Those behaviour models, you’ll have some people who want to talk about everything and will come in and tell you about everything, and other people who will just sit there being the best friend and support to that person, but actually be in a bigger hole themselves. And unfortunately, that’s just the nature of human beings, everyone’s different and you need to be aware and prepare for that.

Scott Read, CEO of Employee Services at Growth Partners

Scott Read Growth Partners discusses the link between employee engagement and retention

Scott Read is a results-driven business leader with a proven track record in helping employers strategise key business growth through employee engagement.

Want to know more?

You can read more about Scott’s thoughts on employee engagement and the key to retaining staff or download Scott’s five-point-plan to drive employee engagement.

If you would like help creating an employee engagement strategy, or to discuss financial wellbeing services for your employees speak to our business growth experts who will be happy to help. You can also read more about our SMART Employment model or book a demo of our all-in-one solution to help make employers’ and employees’ lives easier, happier and healthier here