With recent lockdowns and tier system restrictions, many of us have experienced change and uncertainties around what the future might bring. Financial insecurity can be a big part of this. Our January Supporters Network Webinar was on the topic of financial wellbeing, and how employers can create actionable plans to address the financial burdens of their workforce. Our panel guided participants through the necessary steps to create these plans; and was made up of speakers from The Money and Pensions Service, HM Revenue and Customs, Citizens Advice Manchester, and Lloyds Bank. This blog summarises the key takeaways from the event, and includes a list of resources and the full video recording.
The Current Financial Situation
Prior to the pandemic, financial wellbeing was a key component of the health and wellbeing policies of good employers. However, within the past year the situation has amplified, and the need to address personal finances has become more urgent than ever. Employers play a vital role in looking after the general health and wellbeing of employees – and finance is a large part of this.
The pandemic has created large scale unemployment, rising debt, and general income shocks. This is a crisis which is likely to surpass the economic recession of 2008; and is set to worsen from April 2021 - when many protective measures are scheduled to come to an end. As a result, The Money and Pensions Service are predicting that the demand for debt advice will surge during 2021, rising by an estimated 60%. Similarly, Citizens Advice research shows that 2.8 million people are behind on their energy bills, and over 500,000 people in England are behind on their rent, as a direct impact of Covid-19. The negative impact of these money worries on mental health is bound to be prevalent – particularly with remote working, where it is often harder to notice the warning signs from colleagues and provide appropriate support.
Available Financial Support
There are a number of free support services across Greater Manchester and beyond – which provide guidance on topics such as debt and borrowing, home and mortgages, pensions, benefits and more. This includes The Money and Pensions Service, who publish diagnostic tools and calculators to help keep track and make money plans, alongside personalised support online and over the phone. Their Money Navigator Tool can, within 15 minutes, show people what they’re entitled to and direct them to free support.
Also, Citizens Advice offer independent, confidential, and impartial advice – and have helped over 68,000 people across Greater Manchester. This can be in the form of information, regarding topics such as short-term debt solutions, financial health checks and financial education. Their support can also be more direct, in ways such as finding good energy tariffs, and offering fuel vouchers.
Next Steps for Employers
With April 2021 fast approaching – and the subsequent changes to the minimum and living wage rates, alongside the end of the furlough scheme, employers need to address this issue now. The costs to businesses for non-compliance to the National Minimum Wage rates are significant; with required arrears up to 6 years, penalties, and reputational damage at risk. Be aware of how circumstances are changing in April, and adjust payrolls in advance to avoid this cost. Researching the business and people benefits of the Real Living Wage, as opposed to the National Minimum, will work even further to achieve success in this field.
At the core of this corporate support is understanding your employees. Regular wellbeing one-to-ones with colleagues will help to establish the kind of rapport in which open conversations about money can be facilitated. Conversely, this may mean connecting colleagues to speak with somebody they don’t already know – if this makes the pathway to these conversations easier.
As an employer, it is important to listen to your employees, while looking out for the red flags: such as recent changes in behaviour and body language, signs of stress, and lateness. Resilience and emotional awareness training for line managers may make these signs easier to spot, and to tackle. Open and encouraging working environments will improve the likelihood of these conversations happening – but noticing these red flags can ensure those who don’t speak up are still supported where possible.
- YouTube recording: Financial Wellbeing Webinar
- Supporters Network Webinar: Slide Deck
- Citizens Advice: Debt and Money Resources
- Lloyds Bank and Relate: The M Word – Let’s Talk about Money
- Lloyds Bank: Money Worries Guidance
- JustBorrow: Short-term Loans from Manchester Credit Union
- Mental Health UK: Mental Health and Money Advice Service
- Mind: Money and Mental Health Practical Tips
- Money and Pensions Service: Coronavirus Hub
- Money and Pensions Service: Covid-19 and Your Money YouTube Playlist
- NHS: How to Cope With Money Worries Guidance
- Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA): Help Available
- Hestia: Bright Sky App (providing comprehensive support to people affected by abuse)
- StepChange: Free Expert Debt Advice