Bupa uses earned-wage access to support employees’ financial wellbeing

At the end of 2019, just before the pandemic hit, Bupa rolled out earned-wage access – or flexible pay – to its 11,000 care home staff via Wagestream. The scheme has subsequently been extended to any employee within the UK and Ireland who wants to take it up as an option.

“It has been massively helpful to us during the pandemic,” explains Katie Duxbury, head of payroll services at Bupa. She highlights that, as of February this year, the organisation had ‘streamed’, or paid ahead of payday through earned-wage access, £8 million to employees and is likely to hit £10 million by July.

“Every single one of those pounds could have otherwise attracted bank charges, credit card interest or overdraft fees. Making that money available to employees has been extremely valuable to our people.

“Every day [an employee] turns up for a shift or reports for work, the app is updated with the money [they] have earned that day and how much of that [they] can draw. Even if people aren’t then accessing pay during the month, the benefit is just about having that information in their pocket,” Duxbury adds.

This has fed through into better financial wellbeing. An employee survey in February, for example, found that, of those enrolling in the service, half now felt more in control of their finances, 66% had been able to use the app to cover paying an unexpected bill and, for half, it had meant they had avoided having to turn to a payday lender as a result.

“More than half, 57%, felt their finances were either improved or significantly improved, 40% felt they were budgeting and planning more, 30% of those who had credit cards were using them less, and 22% were using their overdraft less,” says Duxbury, adding that the employer was also seeing greater take-up of the financial education articles and savings tools that come with the app.

One important benefit in terms of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) infection control has been that the switch has enabled Bupa to incentivise care workers not to move between different care homes or providers.

“It used to be that a lot of our care employees would be balancing two jobs,” explains Duxbury. “They could have a permanent role with us but then choose to pick up extra shifts with another employer that paid weekly. So, they would have a monthly injection of cash from Bupa for all their main outgoings, with this then supplemented by a weekly cashflow for day-to-day spending.

“Having the option of a weekly stream from Bupa means our colleagues are more likely to pick up those extra shifts with us. This has supported our efforts to keep our residents and colleagues safe within the confines of one care setting and has been a massive help,” she adds.