While many of us still think that people who are working can’t really get into financial difficulties, it’s no longer the case. Employed people are just as likely as the unemployed to be struggling with personal debt, especially as wage rises aren’t keeping up with inflation now.
The average amount of personal debt in the UK is £30,000 and in the US it’s $140,000. While for some this may be manageable, for others it’s an all-consuming nightmare than affects their home and work life.
Employers have a duty of care to employees here
You may, as an employer, believe that it’s not your problem if an employee is struggling in this way, but it is, at least partly. Employees in debt are stressed, not sleeping properly, may be dodging calls from creditors and even working nightshifts in a store to make ends meet.
In addition to this, employees will often show up to work when they’re too sick to because they’re worried about losing their job. If they need to take a day or two off, their duties can be covered by colleagues or they can chip in from home. Temporary staff can be drafted in for longer cover if necessary; in fact, it costs businesses more if sick employees turn in because they either share their bugs or just can’t do their jobs properly.
You can help a struggling employee by suggesting they go onto a debt management plan or a debt consolidation plan. At the very least you should signpost them to an advice service as it can help them to take the right steps to haul themselves out of their hole.
How helping employees helps you
It’s obvious that helping your staff in their time of need has a positive effect on your business. It helps you in terms of productivity and it also raises staff morale and increases their loyalty, leading to better staff retention.
How you and your company can help
Offer employee assistance programmes
If your company has an EAP, then it should offer financial, legal and personal counselling. Your company might be too small to afford an EAP, in which case you can find your employee help from financial charities and free advice services instead.
Finding the relevant charities
Most industries have their own special charities which offer help, advice and sometimes even money to struggling people. You should make sure all your employees know about this charity – send out links to it in company newsletters or with wage slips so that everyone gets the message and no-one feels picked out.
You can provide financial education in your workplace
You could organise financial workshops for your employees so that your workers can learn more about making their existing money go further, as well as making financial plans and saving up. Make sure, though, that you offer these workshops regularly and that they’re aimed at everyone, so that if there are one or two people in trouble at the time, they can go along to the sessions without fear of finger-pointing.
For many people, the shame of being in debt prevents them from asking for help. Make it as easy as possible for employees to get the help they need and they’ll reward you with loyalty and productivity in the long run.