Financial wellbeing rises up the employer agenda

Financial wellbeing is – and should be – increasingly on employers’ agenda.

woman with empty purses

 

This week saw Monzo bank announce plans for three months of paid sabbatical leave for long-serving employees. That has to be a good thing as people work longer and need breaks, if not to rest then to review what they are doing. So often we sail along from one period of acute busy-ness to another without being able to stop and think. That doesn’t mean stopping and thinking will result in people leaving their jobs. There are so many other things going on in their lives.

Being able to pause and reflect is a vital part of wellbeing. Sabbaticals would also help to normalise career breaks. But unless they are paid only those on the highest wages can afford to take them. The same goes for parental leave or carer’s leave or any other types of leave. Of course, many employers cannot afford to pay people to be on leave and offering unpaid leave is at least something.

However, with the cost of living crisis engulfing us, it is unlikely that take-up will be high. Financial wellbeing is increasingly on employers’ agenda as worry about basic living costs affects every aspect of a person’s life. It is hard to talk about mental wellbeing without tackling financial issues. And financial problems affect physical health too. We know from reports on children who don’t eat properly that their ability to concentrate and be productive suffers at school. The same goes for adults.

There are many things employers can do. The obvious one is to pay the Real Living Wage. Another is to ensure employees have a pathway out of the lowest paid jobs through providing training and direction. Another is offering support for those who have to take periods of leave and a way back for those who are forced to drop out for caring or other reasons. Yet another is to help employees with childcare issues – for instance, loaning them the money for a nursery deposit. And another is to look at how to support employees with transport to work costs, parking charges and the like. More remote working may help some to save money, but it may bring additional costs, such as heating the home. Are hub offices, co-working spaces and the like that are nearer where people live a useful compromise? The important thing is to talk to people about what could help them and to understand the extent of the problem across the workforce.

Of course, employers are no substitute for political action. A civilised society should have a sufficient safety net to see people through hard times and a vision and action plans for a better future. But that is no reason not to take action where it is possible. Society is made up of many actors after all. We have seen where hyper-individualism leads during Covid – with some of the worst death rates in countries whose leaders have encouraged it. Society matters and we all have a role to play.

*The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has created an in-work poverty hub with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to raise awareness of in-work poverty and inspire employers to do what they can to alleviate it.



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