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Cost of Living Crisis: How Can You Support Your Employees?

With the UK inflation rate at a 40-year high and household budgets being eaten up by utility bills and the cost of essential items, many employees are concerned about their financial security. The CIPD found that a quarter of UK employees are suffering with money problems so substantial that it is affecting their ability to do their job. Rising costs for businesses across Northern Ireland mean that few employers are in a position to offer their staff a substantial ‘cost of living pay rise’, but there are multiple ways to support your employees during the cost-of-living crisis and help them to make their wages go further.

Pay a living wage

The real Living Wage is an independently calculated figure based on the minimum amount people need to earn to cover the basic costs of living. At present the real living wage is £10.90 in Northern Ireland, whereas the national living wage is £9.50 for those over 25, and the minimum wage is £9.18 for workers over 18. Over 11,000 UK employers are accredited with the Living Wage Foundation for their commitment to paying the living wage to all employees.

If your business is able to pay the real living wage, there are multiple advantages to doing so. For example, paying the real living wage can relieve employee stress and boost employee retention rates, as well as improving the overall reputation of your business as an employer of choice.

Introduce employee benefits and discount schemes

Many employers offer employee discounts, but if you haven’t already it’s worth considering signing up to a comprehensive discount scheme for your workforce. Discount packages come in many forms and include perks to help employees make financial savings on things like gym memberships, restaurants, travel and high street retailers. Some discount schemes even offer better mortgage rates and tech purchase schemes! If you have the ability to do so, consider offering discounts on your own products or services. This discount will help your employees and allow you to align your benefits package with your brand, too.

Implement a salary sacrifice scheme

Salary sacrifice schemes are a fantastic budget friendly way to help employees during the cost-of-living crisis. Under salary sacrifice schemes, employees swap some of their salary to purchase things through the company payroll to reduce the amount of tax paid and lower their National Insurance contributions. These purchases may include things like a company car or bike, childcare vouchers or higher pension contributions.

Offer a cost-of-living bonus

If you are unable to offer a permanent salary increase to your employees, consider offering a one-off cost-of-living bonus in either cash or vouchers. This will help take some of the pressure off your employees in the short-term and show them that they’re valued as members of your team. If you choose to offer vouchers, consider offering vouchers for well-known supermarkets to ease the weekly shopping bill.

Implement a financial education policy

Employers have an important role to play in ensuring that their employees have a high level of financial literacy and education. Supplying your employees with the ability to access free, confidential money and debt management advice will provide your workforce with the ability to make smart long-term savings decisions and manage their debt effectively.

This financial education can take many forms, such as organising seminars led by independent professionals, offering one-on-one appointments with your finance team, or creating a staff guidebook to circulate throughout the office.

Support mental health at work

One of the most important ways you can support your employees during times of crisis is to have a comprehensive mental health support plan. Financial health and mental health are connected, so if your employees are experiencing stress due to their financial situations it will inevitably affect their mental wellbeing.

Your mental health support plan should include confidential services such as counselling or therapy, online mental health programmes, and give employees the opportunity to speak to their managers about any problems that may be affecting their work. If you’re unsure about how to support mental health at work, this CIPD factsheet is a great place to start.

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