News update – Retailer issues soft loans to lower paid

High street retailer Poundstretcher is carrying out a benefits overhaul which includes offering low paid workers loans to cope with domestic emergencies. The discount chain, which is currently being rebranded as Instore, hopes the loans will be an attractive hook for the firm’s 3,500 staff.

Carol Salt, HR manager, said: “The reason the loan is very appealing to our employees is that not many of them have high incomes. We want them to stay on with us and not give up work when they’ve got a domestic emergency.”

The cash will be paid straight into employee’s bank accounts via the company’s finance department. “It’s a soft loan if you like. It’s a couple of points above the base rate – the lowest rate we can pay without them being taxed on it as a benefit,” said Salt.

Staff who want an advance from Poundstretcher must meet certain criteria and a committee will decide whether they are eligible on a case-by-case basis. She added: “Circumstances where we would give a loan include breaking up with your partner and needing to move out, having a new baby or your washing machine breaking down. A heavy social month wouldn’t qualify.”

The new benefits strategy is part of complete image makeover for the brand. “We want to change the business and it needs to feel like people are working towards a new company. We are a very progressive employer and want to offer a package comparable to other retailers like Asda.”

As part of the benefits spring clean, the retailer is handing out free shares to 700 graded employees. It will award these staff, who typically work in head office roles, between 5,000 and 45,000 shares each. Workers have also seen their holiday allowance jump from 20 to 25 days.