Welcome to the October edition of our newsletter from Hayes HR. We hope that your business is managing to navigate these unpredictable waters right now. We’ve devoted this month’s issue to a couple of burning issues: the cost of living crisis and the potential for blackouts this winter. We ask what employers can do and how they can support their staff at the moment. Don’t worry, though - we have some happier news to finish off our newsletter.
We’d love to hear from you, so please get in touch.
Helping your staff with the cost of living crisis
Times are tough. The cost of living crisis is affecting everyone in different ways, but we’re all aware of rising prices around us. What can small and medium-sized businesses do to help their staff as best they can right now? Of course, giving everyone inflation-matching wage rises is impossible for most businesses as they watch all their other costs rise just as their customers are feeling the pinch and finding it hard to accept higher prices for their goods or services.
A poll by Visier, reported in People Management in July, said 71% of employees say their employer has not adequately kept up their pay with the cost of inflation. The study comes as separate data from Elio Group also revealed half (51 per cent) of employees believe their employer should help with the rising cost of living. There are some other ways to help employees through the current times that do not require unaffordable wage increases.
This is a great time to review what benefits are offered to employees. We’ll look at some of the options in a separate article below, but whatever you offer make sure that the whole workforce is aware of it. Beyond having a package of benefits that really fit with the demographics of your employees, there are some other support options you can consider. Staff will feel more valued if they can see that their employer is looking out for them, especially in times like these.
One common approach is to provide financial education for staff. This could be a lunchtime talk, one-to-one advice or signposting to information and advice services, such as Citizens Advice, the Money Helpers budget planner, and even StepChange or the National Debtline. Understanding where staff are feeling the pinch will help with planning. If travel costs are a big issue for some staff, changing working practices might be useful - offering some remote working or condensing one’s working week to working their hours over four days instead of five could help reduce travel costs.
Benefits and perks
While these are sometimes seen as “fluffy extras”, a good package of benefits can make employees feel more valued and offer them genuine savings on every day costs. Below are a few options. With all benefits, it’s important to think through the implications of any changes. Does the change have any tax implications for staff? Could a particular benefit be discriminatory? Is it contractual? Is it legal? That last question might sound extreme, but - for example - some companies allow employees to sell extra holiday allowance back to the company, which is fine as long as the employee doesn’t end up with less than the statutory minimum. If you want to re-vamp your benefits package, Hayes HR can help you think through the best approach.
Some benefits to consider
Perkbox - this offers your staff thousands of discounts and offers and the platform now allows employers to include all their benefits in one place for staff.
A health cashplan - there are many cashplans out there that offer staff benefits such as free eye tests, reimbursements of dental check up costs, physiotherapy and acupuncture or other health discounts. They are a great, low cost benefit to offer.
Season ticket loans - depending on location, travelling by public transport can be a big cost for employees. Often the cheapest option is an annual season ticket, but paying for a year’s travel at once is beyond many people’s budget. An employer can offer an interest-free loan to an employee to cover the cost, which the employee then repays over twelve month, with the money being deducted from their pay packet (after tax).
Salary sacrifice schemes - there are several of these that are recognised by HMRC. Two of the most common are for childcare vouchers and the Cycle to Work Scheme (for purchasing a bike at reduced cost). It’s important to get advice when setting up salary sacrifice schemes to make sure tax rules are being complied with.
Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) - these programmes are designed to support employees in different ways. They may offer services such as counselling or more practical advice.
In all cases, it’s important to get some advice when reviewing the benefits package offered and Hayes HR can help design a package that is right for your staff and your particular business needs.
Are power outages coming this winter?
We don’t know what this winter holds, but there is the distinct possibility that we could suffer power outages. National Grid CEO, John Pettigrew, issued an ominous warning of potential rolling blackouts to UK businesses in the months ahead. While they are said to be “unlikely”, there is still a real possibility and it is certainly something to be thinking about and planning for.
People Management put together some thoughts on this after asking HR experts and employment lawyers. Here are their key points to consider:
On a happier note, I did it!
Well, that was tough! I joined Damhurst & Co on 17 September on a fantastic challenge to raise money the Alzheimer’s Society and Insurance United Against Dementia. We took on a triathalon at Dorney Lake in London and raised an amazing £1,500! Thank you to all of you who sponsored me.
I’d welcome any feedback you may have and look forward to discussing any HR issues with you in the future.