Nicola Ryan MCIPD, Director of Colleague Support at school wear provider One+All.
Despite the rising cost of living, one in five workers feel their employer is not doing enough to support their financial wellbeing – rising to almost one in four for low-paid workers.
So what more can employers do to recognise both the moral and business case for helping employees who are struggling financially?
One+All, winner of the ‘Employer of the Year’ accolade at the Greater Manchester Good Employment Awards, is a 100% employee-owned business, which specialises in making quality school wear. We support the financial wellbeing of our 70-strong workforce in a number of ways, including a profit share scheme and interest free loans.
Looking through the lens of the lowest paid helps us make good decisions
Over half our colleagues are in traditionally lower paid roles such as warehouse or machine operative positions. As such, we believe in supporting colleagues to view business decisions around pay, reward and financial support through the lens of the lowest paid.
Individuals and families across the UK are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis and it’s clear that employers have a responsibility to support colleagues in surviving this difficult period.
Understanding what it is like for those on a tight budget, when many are forced to choose between heating and eating, is clearly the right thing to do ethically. But it makes commercial sense too, as it allows the business to offer a tailored approach and make good decisions which benefit colleagues.
At One+All, conversations about financial wellbeing are commonplace. Listening to those who are frontline in facing these increasing challenges is another key pillar which helps us to understand and make positive decisions for colleagues.
We offer a full financial health review along side interest free crisis loans
We initially launched our interest free crisis loans more than 12 years ago, to support colleagues with unexpected outgoings such as a car breakdown or boiler repair.
The loans have since evolved and we are proud to have supported colleagues with gambling debt, medical expenses, and other big life events. Today all loans come with a full financial health review, including money management training and regular reviews to ensure individuals can remain in control of their finances long term. One colleague who was supported in this way recently shared that it was the first time in their adult life they had been debt free. In the last two years, when we have seen pandemic pressures and furlough, not one single colleague has needed to request a loan.
More recently, as the cost-of-living crisis grows, we’ve introduced solutions designed to ease colleague stress, including blanket salary increases for all colleagues (excluding directors) and increased profit share. We’ve also made an effective plan for all colleagues to get through the next two years with huge energy bills. This has included a full review of local support, so that all colleagues are in receipt of any discounts or offers available.
We pay full pension for auto enrolment too, so colleagues do not need to see a reduction in their take-home pay in order to save for the future.
We reward our colleagues for their hard work through a profit share scheme
We are incredibly proud to be in a position today – after becoming an employee-owned business in 2015 – to reward our colleagues for their hard work and commitment with a share of our profits, tax free up to £3,600 because we’re employee owned.
The profit share scheme has averaged £2,000 annually, per colleague over the last five years and the majority of this is paid intentionally at Christmas to allow colleagues to enjoy what can often be another financially challenging period.
Top tips for employers to protect workers from in-work poverty
Employers can make positive steps to protect workers from in-work poverty, which also bring commercial benefits in the form of improved colleague and customer satisfaction. These include:
- Paying the Accredited Real Living Wage – this ensures a minimum standard of living for colleagues and in our experience, sets your business apart from others in attracting, recruiting and retaining talent.
- Becoming an Accredited Living Hours Employer – this guarantees colleagues’ hours of work and therefore their income, relieving stress and ensuring work can be planned effectively.
- Invest in additional benefits including a Healthcare Cash Plan – these allow colleagues to claim back some important expenses like dental, optician and physiotherapy, which often get neglected when times are tough.
- Work with your Local Credit Union – they can support colleagues to save a regular amount for rainy days or important life events. They can also be one of the single most important things you can do to support your most disadvantaged colleagues, including those experiencing domestic or financial abuse who may need to save money, confidentially.
Our profits are eight times higher since we started putting people first
Whilst this array of support may seem a lot for a small business, we see the significant benefits. Since we put people before profit, our sales have doubled and our profits are eight times higher. Our colleague satisfaction is 100% positive with 100% of our colleagues saying they feel proud to work with us and our customer satisfaction is world class.
Each of us, reading this today, knows the benefit and motivation which comes from feeling valued and cared for and how that translates into our own work performance and productivity – so it’s easy to see how this can engage and motivate an entire workforce.
When the great resignation hits the headlines, and talent seems more difficult to attract, can you really afford not to invest in colleagues' financial wellbeing?