Helen Undy: Employers should help staff build financial resilience

Overstretched, overdrawn, underserved: Financial difficulty and mental health at work, published by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute in May 2017, found that two-thirds of UK employees who are struggling financially also show at least one sign of mental ill-health. These are issues that could affect their ability to function at work, from poor concentration to reduced motivation.

Taking steps to support staff with their financial wellbeing is therefore not only good for the individual, it is also beneficial for workplace productivity.

To this end, employers should help their staff build financial resilience. This might include partnering with financial services providers to offer payroll savings schemes, or offering short-term loans and making larger credit facilities available to staff through payroll, to ensure that employees do not have to resort to high-cost sources of credit.

A second crucial step is taking measures to tackle the stigma around debt, which often prevents people from seeking help and can lead to bigger financial or mental health problems.

Organisations should ensure that line manager training includes lessons on how staff might be affected by problem debt, and could also allocate HR resources to help managers support people in this situation.

Finally, it is critical to provide support for staff members for whom financial problems are starting to kick in. Helping employees access debt advice, for example, could be hugely important in supporting them to resolve financial difficulties.

Employers can help by proactively providing staff with information about financial wellbeing and discreetly signposting to advice services where appropriate. Similarly, if an employee is facing a substantial loss of income due to reduced hours or sickness absence, directing them to welfare advice or support with relevant benefit applications could make a significant difference.

Helen Undy is chief executive of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute