Karleen Dowden: Employers must prioritise the financial wellbeing of employees

In March, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Reward management survey called on employers to recognise both the moral and business case for taking more responsibility for their employees’ financial wellbeing.

The estimated cost of low financial wellbeing each year as a result of absenteeism and presenteeism is £1.56 billion according to the Financial wellbeing and productivity study by Aegon and Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), so the case for financial wellbeing at work is compelling.

A good starting point is the CIPD’s Practical guide to employee financial wellbeing, published in March 2021, which provides a good overview of the key elements for developing financial wellbeing in the workplace. Developing the policy is the easy bit but implementation is where the real hard work begins.

A common myth is that HR teams need to be the experts on ‘all things financial’ but they can draw on the expertise and support of other organisations to develop a financial wellbeing programme that meets employees’ needs.

The Money secrets research, published by Money and Pensions Service (Maps) in November 2020, into the financial behaviours of UK adults showed that 29 million adults don’t feel comfortable talking about money, despite 48% admitting they have regularly worried about finances. The most common reasons are shame, embarrassment and not wanting to burden others. Maps’ ‘talk money week’, which runs from 8 to 12 November, is a great annual platform to get employees talking about their finances and raising awareness of financial wellbeing in the workplace.

The pandemic has shown that it is more important than ever for organisations to support their employees in building their financial wellbeing. However, we know the pandemic has also meant significant challenges for many organisations, resulting in financial wellbeing slipping down the ladder of priorities.

Employers can signpost staff to free, impartial and confidential money and pensions information and guidance, such as that included on the Maps website.

Karleen Dowden is regional partnerships manager, North East, at Money and Pensions Service