United Utilities helps staff make most of finances

Case study: United Utilities

Offering employees financial advice and education may not be a common benefit in the utilities sector but at United Utilities, it’s seen as part of the company’s responsibilites.

Julie McGowan, secretariat administrator, explains: "It does surprise our employees but we believe we should offer them [education] to help them make the most of their finances."

The company, which employs up to 17,000 people in roles as diverse as road diggers to executives, first started offering financial education in the late 1980s when it introduced employee share schemes following its privatisation. Since then, it has extended the range of financial education programmes it provides and as well as offering seminars for employees coming up to retirement, it also runs sessions on maturing share schemes. "It’s important to offer employees access to information. Some years, our employees have made as much as £30,000 from their share schemes which means the potentially face large capital gains tax bills. These seminars give them the information they need to reduce these," explains McGowan.

After the seminars, the company always sees an increased take up in its Isa as employees look to shelter their gains. Employees are offered helpline numbers and details of the intranet site where further information can be obtained. They can also arrange meetings with the financial advisers, either in the workplace or at home.

"People don’t always want to discuss their finances in front of their colleagues and we find that a lot of the people who attend the courses do ring for further information and advice," adds McGowan. As well as helping staff arrange their finances, she believes that offering financial education also improves employee relations. "It definitely improves the way employees regard the company. We find this increases the trust between us and our employees."