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Cost of living crisis taking its toll on employees

Written by Claire Williams on Wednesday, 13 July 2022. Posted in HR, People

The cost-of-living crisis is having a significant impact on the UK’s workforce – driving many to change jobs, take on more hours, and even attend work while sick.

Cost of living crisis taking its toll on employees

According to research by HR software provider Ciphr, nearly a third (31%) of employees are working more hours or have taken on extra shifts over the last few months because of rising living costs, and a fifth (21%) have requested a pay rise.

Many have been looking elsewhere to boost their earnings though. Of the 1,006 people polled, one in eight (12%) have taken on an additional job, while around a quarter (27%) are considering finding a better paid job.

One worrying outcome of a cut in real salaries – where high inflation reduces the value of wages and pushes up the cost of living – is that people may start forcing themselves to work even when they might not be well enough to do so, due to the financial impact of taking time off.

Ciphr’s findings revealed that over half (56%) of people earning under £30,000, compared to 37% of those earning over £45,000, say they’ve attended work while sick because they couldn’t afford not to.

Lower earners, as well as many part-time earners, are particularly at a disadvantage under the current statutory sick pay (SSP) system. For employees that work at organisations that only pay in line with SSP rules, it means they must be off work sick for three days unpaid before they qualify to receive it. In comparison, for those entitled to company or contractual sick pay, it’s often triggered from day one.

Reducing household spending – something that 67% of Ciphr’s survey respondents said they’ve already done – unfortunately only goes so far. Other decisions that people have taken in response to spiralling living costs include requesting remote working to save money on petrol or commuting costs (21%), asking employers for help and advice or wellbeing support (18%) and asking for more – or different – employee benefits (12%).

How employers can help

Money and financial worries can be a huge stressor. And it’s not just affecting a few people. Over two in three employees (68%) admit to feeling stressed or overwhelmed at times because of cost-of-living increases. This stress can, in turn, have an impact on their mental health and their ability to perform in their roles.

While there are many things outside of an employer’s control, organisations have a responsibility to support employees' mental wellbeing in the same way they would when looking after their physical health and safety. There are several ways that this can be achieved. Firstly, check whether any of your existing employee benefits have financial wellbeing support included as this is usually an area of support offered by employee assistance programmes (EAPs).

Also consider introducing other benefits that can help your employees right now, such as access to discounted shopping sites, health cashback plans, or loan schemes covering travel or new technology purchases.

It’s also important to focus on raising awareness about how much financial wellbeing matters to the wider employee experience. Cost of living increases are impacting everyone – but not everyone equally. Running financial education sessions and sharing useful financial information and resources can help mitigate some of the effects.

Managers also need to be mindful that everyone’s situation is different, and managers themselves may need extra training so that they can effectively support their teams on a day-to-day basis.

These are incredibly challenging times, and employers can’t ignore the financial pressures affecting many in their workforce.

About the Author

Claire Williams

Claire Williams

Claire Williams is chief people officer at HR software provider Ciphr and a fellow of the CIPD – the UK’s professional body for HR. She leads Ciphr’s people and development strategy, overseeing its HR function and HR consultancy services.

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