As inflation rises to 40-year peak of 9.1%, cost of living now tops the list of employee concerns above mental health worries, wellbeing and Covid

By Zest

Figures released today from the Office for National Statistics show that inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, has hit its highest level since March 1982, adding to the strain on households, especially those on lower incomes.

According to the ONS Opinions and Lifestyle survey1 conducted back in March 2022, 83% of adults report that their cost of living has increased, compared to 61% in November 2021. Plus, grim figures also show a quarter of Britons are struggling with bills2. Unsurprisingly, during the pandemic, there was an increased focus on mental health worries amongst the workforce, but as household costs continue to rise, financial wellbeing is rapidly taking centre stage.

With the Bank of England warning last week that inflation was on course to reach 11% later this year as gas and electricity prices soar, it’s understandable that the spiralling cost of living is causing significant stress for many employees.

HOW CAN EMPLOYERS SUPPORT THEIR STAFF?

While it may seem the obvious solution, offering pay increases in line with inflation is not an option for many businesses. Instead, employers are being encouraged to come up with smart and practical ways to ease the everyday financial stress. Ray Sieber at Zest Benefits says, “An intuitive and responsive employee benefits system is one of the best ways to not only empower employees to have control, but also provide the flexibility and open communication about the value of their employee benefits and help to give the reassurance they are desperately in need of right now.”

Ray adds; “This is the ideal time for organisations to examine their entire employee rewards policies and make sure they are as engaging and targeted as possible.”

BENEFITS THAT OFFER RICH REWARDS

A constant frustration for HR professionals can be that their employees do not fully appreciate the value of their total package. While social activities, healthcare schemes and cash bonuses may have been seen as traditional ways of rewarding staff, there are many ways that benefits can have offer tangible financial support in these worrying times.

What’s more, with a platform such as Zest, employees get to see the full value. Giving a 360-degree view of removes the confusion and lets employees see the impact that their benefit selection has on their take home pay. As a business, it’s never been more important to choose a benefits offering that will have a meaningful impact on your employees’ lives, such as:

  • Employee saving schemes
    Payroll saving allows employees to make regular savings directly from their wages. The automated ‘set and forget’ nature of the process makes saving cash routine and effortless and provides a safety net for unexpected personal expenses or bigger savings goals such as property or life events.
  • Tech and electronics such as mobile phones and laptops
    Providing your team with the latest tech via a salary sacrifice scheme can save or spread the cost of expensive equipment and keep them connected in this era of hybrid working. It also relieves the pressure of paying out for separate tech for their personal use.
  • Interest-free loans for travel season tickets
    Interest-free loans to cover the cost of commuting can relieve a big burden on the bank balance. Covering various modes of transport, such as trains and buses, it can also be applied to parking charges and incentivising the purchase of more eco-friendly travel solutions such as electric vehicles.
  • Shopping vouchers, cashback deals, deals and discounts on well-known brands
    Vouchers and discounts can give employees the opportunity to stretch their household budgets further. One thing all employees have in common is regular outgoings on everyday products and services. Shopping discounts are therefore a fantastic benefit that delivers company-wide value.
  • Financial education and advice
    Independent free financial planning advice can help employees understand their personal finances better, whether that be advice on saving for their future, investment advice, tax planning or mortgage advice. Knowing that they have contingency plans in place offers peace of mind in what is becoming an ever-more unpredictable world.

With financial uncertainty being both detrimental to overall wellbeing and productivity, it’s clear that having their teams suffer money worries is one cost businesses really can’t afford. Taking away that stress has rewards all round.

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