As many businesses were beginning to return to normality after the COVID-19 pandemic, they are now facing a new challenge in supporting staff through the cost of living crisis. Many individuals are faced with very real concerns about their living costs including how they will even afford to commute to work. With this in mind, businesses risk an unengaged and distracted workface if cost of living concerns are not alleviated.
Retail giant, Marks and Spencer, has recently come under criticism after it was reported that they had instructed their contractor to cut cleaner’s pay at their distribution centre during a cost of living crisis. This decision is reported to have left workers having no choice but to leave their job as they are already struggling to keep up with the cost of living.
With employees having to make the decision to leave their jobs, businesses should be ensuring talent retention is a top priority. To do this they should be considering flexible approaches to reward employees and improve working conditions to try and hold on to talent for longer. A survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has found that more than 8 in 10 employers from large UK businesses are in fact taking action to help staff in light of the cost of living crisis with financial support such as focused pay increases for essential workers, additional pay reviews and one-off bonuses.
However, for some businesses pay increases will not necessarily be a viable option and so they would be encouraged to try and be creative when considering what initiatives they may be able to implement to help their staff. It was recently reported that John Lewis and Waitrose had announced that they will offer free food to staff to help with the cost of living, the delivery of such will be arranged in different ways depending on the workplace.
Businesses are encouraged to communicate with their staff to understand their concerns and opinions and may consider initiatives such as:
- Staff discounts;
- Free health checks or an online GP service;
- Interest free loans;
- Season ticket loans;
- Buyback of unused holiday entitlement (businesses to ensure this is subject to employee’s having taken their minimum statutory holiday entitlement);
- Salary sacrifice schemes such as a cycle to work scheme which may assist with the rising fuels costs and employees who may opt to cycle to work instead;
- Hybrid working arrangements to reduce staff travel costs for those who are worried about commuting costs whilst also striking a balance for employees who are worried about rising utility costs so may prefer to work from the workplace;
- Staggered start and finish times to avoid peak travel fares;
- Free meals for employees;
- Employee Assistance Programmes which may be able to offer advice on mortgages, financial planning, debt management and wellbeing;
- Employers should be sensitive of the fact that financial difficulty is often met with emotional challenges.
Businesses should also consider that even if they already offer any of the above, it would be worth ensuring that such assistance is thoroughly communicated to staff and encourage its uptake.
Whilst businesses may initially think they’re unable to afford to assist their employees with the crisis we are facing, it may be that other options are available. We would encourage open discussions with employees as each business will need to adapt its approach depending on business and employee needs.