Even with the latest announcement of support measures from the government, the cost of living crisis is a top concern for the UK workforce.
Many employers are facing increased pressure to respond with inflation-busting pay increases or hardship bonuses to their work force. But few employers are in a position to throw limitless money at the problem. As dark clouds gather over the UK economy the Bank of England has warned employees not to seek large pay rises if they want to see costs stabilise.
How else can employers support their staff through the cost of living crisis? Here are five suggestions:
Broaden out a flexible benefits package
Employers should listen to their workforce to ensure their benefits package meets diverse needs. A flexible benefits package is optimal because it acknowledges the fact that circumstances will differ employee to employee and could include dental care, transport-cost loans, discount vouchers which extend to non-luxury items, salary sacrifice to enable tax efficiencies, annual health/mental health checks, or the option of buying/selling annual leave.
Greater support for employee mental health
Financial security is central to employee mental health and wellbeing. Employers should consider in all cases whether staff have a confidential channel to air their financial worries and seek support if they are struggling. This may take the form of trained mental health first aiders, an Employee Assistance Programme or scheduling regular “check ins” with staff. Effective initiatives to identify, de-stigmatise and support employees who are are struggling with mental health issues have never been more important.
Facilitating peer group support, networks and pooling of resources
Larger employers may be able to facilitate the creation of resource groups for example to enable car-pooling or recycling of work wear. Employers can actively encourage peer to peer support. For example hosting lunch time walking groups or offering hosting, tech or other support to ensure resource pooling groups are a success.
Requests for greater flexibility due to increasing financial pressure should be carefully considered, such as increased home working to reduce rising petrol costs, requests for overtime or an increase to workings hours. These requests should be dealt with confidentially and with sensitivity based on individual circumstances.
Assisting with financial training and budgeting
Employers should consider offering optional financial training and budgeting support to employees during to support them in manging their personal finances and ensure they know how to access help if struggling.
Above all else, employers must ensure their people do not feel embarrassed or stigmatised by raising financial concerns at work and are supported in keeping their heads above water.