Employers: ‘The guardians of people’s financial livelihoods’

Jane Portas OBE, the keynote speaker at WMPeople.co.uk’s Top Employer Awards said employers have an opportunity to build trust with their employees by addressing issues of financial wellbeing over a lifetime.

Jane Portas


Employers need to do more to ensure their employees understand the long-term financial impact of decisions they make at crucial junctures in their lives, according to an expert in risk.

Jane Portas OBE [pictured], creator of 6 Moments That Matter, was giving the keynote speech at WMPeople.co.uk’s Top Employer Awards on Tuesday night.

She recounted how she had decided to apply the risk techniques she used in her career in the financial services industry to people’s lives and she found, for instance, that there are 12 causes of the financial gaps between men and women, including parenthood and caring responsibilities, flexible working, wellness, divorce and separation, domestic and economic abuse, longevity and the earnings gap. These accumulate over a lifetime and result in the gender pension gap, which is significantly higher than the gender pay gap and means many older women find themselves dependent on men or living in poverty.

Portas, who is also author of The Risks in Life Series of award-winning insight reports and financial wellbeing guides and of the Insuring Women’s Futures’ manifesto, says it is vital that we are more aware of the impact of all of these factors in the long term and she has distilled six moments that matter to our financial wellbeing – choosing what to study, starting a job or re-entering the workplace after a break, choosing a relationship, starting a family, confronting health issues and retirement.

Portas argued that the support available to people and our legal systems are often standardised and assume a linear life, the standard 9 to 5 spent in the same job for a whole working lifetime. The trouble is that women’s lives have been less linear for many years, but everyone’s lives are now following similar patterns as we have to work longer and negotiate caring responsibilities, health issues and redundancy.

Portas said there is a lot of talk about women lacking financial confidence. However, she said it was more about women not being able to relate financial products to their lives. That opens up trust gaps between them and the organisations supplying those products and affects how they relate to money. “It’s difficult to relate if it doesn’t feel like your life,” she said.

Why trust matters

She emphasised the importance of trust. She cited research showing that business leaders are not trusted much, yet she said that employers are “the guardians of people’s financial livelihoods” at work and in retirement. “That’s a real position of power and trust is paramount,” she stated.

She added that employers are facing a lot of risks as a result of the cost of living crisis, growing inequality, lack of social cohesion and mental health and employment crises. There are also risks relating to candidates in terms of a lack of skills, wellbeing, pay and benefits, diversity and inclusion and flexible careers. Moreover, the risks candidates face at home impact their ability to earn.

All of these are in alignment, said Portas, but many people don’t feel their employers care for their well being or that they are being fairly paid. They felt more trusted during Covid to get their jobs done. She said employers need to do more to build trust and to communicate with their employees about issues that affect their financial wellbeing, such as engaging more with their pensions, understanding the impact of part-time working over a lifetime and understanding their payslip. “This is an opportunity for employers,” she said.

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