Employers have many duties towards staff, but there is one that is rarely mentioned: a duty of care towards employees’ financial wellbeing.
Why is financial wellbeing potentially awkward to discuss? Perhaps employers feel that offering financial assistance represents too much involvement in an individual’s life. Or maybe employees feel that if they disclose their money troubles, their employer will see them as irresponsible.
According to our Annual statistics yearbook, published in April 2018, 55% of StepChange’s new clients or their partners were employed, so it is clear there are a significant number of UK employees affected by problem debt. Those in debt are more likely to experience anxiety, stress and depression, thereby reducing their physical and mental wellbeing.
Debt is also detrimental for employers. Problem debt reduces efficiency and is estimated to have cost the UK £900 million per year, as found by the National Audit Office in September 2018.
As such, it is in the interests of both the employee and the employer to address workplace financial wellbeing.
As an employer ourselves, we know there is more we can do. We already offer all staff free financial information and support, but we are currently undertaking a full review of the way we support employees to consider how we can complement and improve our current arrangements.
We have committed to reviewing our reward and recognition scheme to ensure that employees’ hard work in supporting StepChange through our busiest year on record is recognised. Programmes such as workplace savings, which we expressed our support for alongside Yorkshire Building Society last year, are also a positive step.
At StepChange, we want to see a world free from problem debt. If we are going to achieve this, then employers, including us, need to step up and ensure that staff financial wellbeing is a priority.
Sian Evans is director of HR at debt charity StepChange