In January 2017, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, signed up the whole of the Greater London Authority (GLA) family to the Fifty Thousand Homes pledge. The Fifty Thousand Homes campaign aims to double housebuilding in London to at least 50,000 homes a year by the end of the Mayor’s term in 2020, while the pledge is designed to encourage employers to help their workforce with rising housing costs in the capital.
By signing up, organisations commit to implementing at least one positive change to support staff in this area within six months of making the pledge. This covers pay, such as paying all employees the London living wage of £9.75 an hour; financial support and resources, such as relocation bonuses or taking a flexible approach to allow staff to view homes to buy or rent during working hours; responsive advice and signposting, such as an intranet service for employees seeking accommodation or access to best-practice information for tenants and landlords; internal housing initiatives, such as arranging preferential lending terms for mortgages.
At the GLA, which includes City Hall, Transport for London, the Metropolitan Police, the London Fire Brigade, the London Legacy Development Corporation and the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation, all bodies have either implemented or have committed to introducing a rental deposit loan for staff.
There is a business case for supporting employees with housing costs; 69% of London-based employer respondents believe that high housing costs affect their ability to attract and retain skilled talent, and 31% say housing availability is impacting recruitment and retention, according to the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) London business survey, September 2016.
Some of London’s employers have already put in place measures to respond to this challenge. Organisations including the CBI and the Co-operative Group implemented a London rental deposit loan scheme in February 2015. Pioneered by housing charity Shelter, this scheme provides employees with an interest-free loan towards a deposit on a rented home, with repayments deducted from their salary. Elsewhere in the capital, financial recruitment firm Goodman Masson has offered its staff a mortgage fund to help save for a deposit through its flexible benefits scheme, the Benefits Boutique, since 2012.
Of course, housing costs are not just an issue in London, and employers elsewhere in the UK are taking steps to support their staff. Insurance organisation Admiral introduced a home-moving salary advance scheme in 2016, which aims to help employees with moving costs, and property services group Countrywide offers employees discounts on its own products, such as conveyancing and mortgage services. Following a pilot scheme, Associated British Ports rolled out a financial education programme from September 2016 that focuses on financial issues facing staff at different stages in their lives and careers, including information about budgeting and how to get the best mortgage rate.
In addition to supporting employers’ recruitment and retention strategies, initiatives that help staff with housing and living costs can also have a positive impact on employees’ financial health, which could, in turn, boost wellbeing and productivity in the workplace. According to research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Close Brothers Asset Management, published in January 2017, 25% of employees report that money worries have affected their ability to do their job, with 19% losing sleep over financial concerns and 10% finding it difficult to concentrate or make decisions at work.