Employers should welcome the measures to improve conditions for workers announced in Monday’s Budget. The Chancellor announced increases to take-home pay; support for those struggling with debt, and a substantial boost to mental health services.
Workers will see an increase in their take-home pay from April 2019, a year sooner than the planned 2020 increases. From next April the personal allowance will be £12,500 and the higher rate tax threshold will increase to £50,000, taking one million people out of higher rate tax.
Pressure on some of the most vulnerable households could also be reduced by:
- the £650m investment in social care;
- initiatives to help with debt relief; and
- the £2bn increase in spending on mental health services
Mental health and debt relief
Mental health is a serious issue for the UK’s working population. Some 12.5 million working days were lost to work-related stress, anxiety or depression in 2016/17, and more than 526,000 workers suffer with these conditions. (Source: Labour Force Survey estimates of self-reported stress, Office for National Statistics 2016/17)
These levels of stress are unsustainable, and are often made worse by problems such as debt and housing concerns. Could you focus at work if you had a loan shark on your back?
The Chancellor has invited pitches for a £2 million challenge fund to develop technology to help relieve problem debt. The aim is to encourage people to borrow from affordable lenders rather than turning to more expensive and disreputable alternatives.
Interest-free loans will also be made available to help people struggling with debt through a collaboration between the Treasury and debt charities.
These initiatives are a big step in the right direction. But they will not fulfil their purpose if the people who need them most don’t know they exist.
Employers can play a significant role in helping their staff feel less stressed and more motivated. And they could reap the rewards through increased productivity and a happier, more stable, workforce.
So what can you, as employers, do to help?
The easiest (and cheapest) option is to signpost to services that are provided by the government and not-for-profits, for example the Money Advice Service or mental health charities. This is a great starting point, and employers can think about how they make their staff aware that help is available, and where they can find it.
But employers needn’t stop there. Many are looking beyond what happens at work, and offering benefits designed to enhance their employees’ financial, physical, and mental wellbeing, including:
- Matching pension contributions (or more than matching them) to help pension scheme members save and see their savings increase each month
- Share schemes to allow employees to invest in their own businesses and encourage regular savings
- Employee Assistance Programmes to give staff confidential advice, from help with debt to relationship advice
- Access to credit unions to help staff save and borrow at affordable rates
- Corporate ISAs and Lifetime ISAs (LISAs) to provide alternative savings vehicles for those with shorter term savings goals or those for whom pensions have become less tax-efficient
But if you want your employees to benefit from, and appreciate, the services you are paying for, you have to tell them about them and explain how and when they might want to use them. Otherwise, they won’t get the support they need and you won’t see the value.
What’s more, this isn’t just a nice thing to do for employees; it actually impacts your bottom line. Employees with better health and wellbeing are more productive, which in turn leads to better business decisions and therefore performance.
We’re helping more and more clients look beyond their pensions and share schemes at their holistic approach to employee benefits. You can increase awareness by using real life examples and showing how the benefits have helped your colleagues. Showing your employees how they can get help as and when it’s needed means they’ll feel more supported, you’ll mitigate the risks associated with poor health and wellbeing, and you’ll get the full value from your benefits package.