We have made great strides in dealing with mental wellbeing within the HR sector, but the importance of financial wellbeing – which can have major effects on employees – is still lagging behind…
Each November, Talk Money week encourages people to open up and talk about their finances, in a bid to improve their mental wellbeing.
In HR, we are well versed now in focusing on mental wellbeing – we appoint mental health first aiders, offer counselling, encourage line managers to look out for signs of any issues. Now it is time to bring financial wellbeing into the mix.
Financial distress is a major cause of stress and anxiety – and yet a recent CIPD survey found that among employers with health and wellbeing strategies, only one in 10 actively focus on financial wellbeing, while 57% actively focus on mental wellbeing.
Mental health organisation Mental Health at Work (which is curated by Mind, the mental health charity, and funded by The Royal Foundation as part of their Heads Together campaign) conducted research before the pandemic, which showed that in England alone more than 1.5 million people were experiencing both problems with debt and mental health problems.
They found that facing financial difficulties was more likely to cause people to need treatment for mental health issues. And although the financial problems themselves cause stress and anxiety, this is exacerbated both by the way in which debts are collected and the fact that they (and their families) have to go without essentials. They estimated that every year more than 100,000 people in England alone attempt to take their own life while struggling with problem debt.
Financial wellbeing and the care sector
In the care sector, there are other issues that can come into play and affect employees. In general, pay is lower than many other professions, so your staff may not have a chance to save into a contingency fund to help them get through tough times, and are less likely to be able to access affordable credit to help them until payday.
And of course, in the event of a death of a client in the private care sector, funds can be frozen. If there is a deputyship, which comes to an end upon the client’s death, and their affairs pass into probate, the care staff would not be paid until the process is complete. This can take months.
Struggling with financial wellbeing can also affect people in their work. According to Mental Health, two-thirds of employees who are experiencing financial difficulties show at least one sign of poor mental health that could affect their ability to function well at work. Signs include lack of sleep, poor concentration, and reduced motivation. This can be made more difficult if they are treated badly at work and left without support.
In the care sector, your staff have to look after others, and they cannot do that if they are not being supported. You might want to consider offering access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP,) which can provide independent support.
At a time when Covid has adversely affected many people financially – and some will be experiencing the effects of a hit to their finances for years to come – it seems that the time’s right to make it more of a focus.
So how can you make a start on supporting your staff’s financial wellbeing? There are three quite simple steps to kickstart the plan:
- To begin with, make your employees aware of the advice available from the government’s Money and Pensions Service. This advice on money and debit is free, confidential and independent.
- Also ensure that they are aware of any benefits and offers that might be available – such as medical or dental insurance should you consider offering an EAP – as well as government benefits such as tax-free childcare, which has replaced the old childcare voucher scheme.
- Make the opportunity to discuss financial challenges that both your employees and your organisation face. Making it normal to discuss these issues will help to break down the stigma attached – just as we have seen happen with mental health issues in recent years.
Of course this is just the start. As an employer you can also look at ensuring you are paying a fair wage, support opportunities for employees to progress, look at broadening your benefits package and even offer financial education.
You’ll also find some useful tools at: www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/toolkit/supporting-the-financial-wellbeing-of-your-employees/.
If you would like to discuss this subject further, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.
T: 01296 761288 or contact us here.
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Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited provide a specialised HR service to the care sector, from recruitment through to exit.