Matthew Connell: Employers have access to tools that support employee financial wellbeing

An employer’s relationship with its employee is an important one and goes beyond a focus on day-to-day work priorities. With the increased focus on health and wellbeing over recent years, it has meant this relationship is more important than ever.

Building an open and trusting relationship where employees can feel comfortable sharing details of their personal life and how they are feeling is, therefore, a vital part of ensuring employers can support them when they need it the most. For example, employee assistance programmes (EAPs) can provide confidential counselling services to help employees to discuss issues that may be affecting their lives.

This also applies to their financial wellbeing and an employer’s ability to understand what interventions and levels of support it can offer staff at times of need. In normal circumstances,  one of the most common interventions employers have a duty to make is around pension provision. Beyond setting up appropriate pension provision, access to financial advice through a financial adviser, a mortgage broker, or a banking representative could be provided to employees who need added advice, particularly in times of financial difficulty. For instance, employers can offer up to £500 pension advice a year and receive tax and national insurance contribution relief in exchange.

Other possibilities include: partnering up with third-party organisations such as a credit union or other suitable firms that can offer loans to employees with payments taken directly from payroll; creating a corporate individual savings account (Isa) to assist with employee savings; managing work-related costs such as season ticket loans for travel during times of normality, and providing home work costs such as expenses for desks and other office equipment.

From an insurance perspective, there are also some incredibly important products that employers can take out which can provide important protections and interventions in their staff’s lives. Group risk benefits, such as employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness, are particularly beneficial as they can help employees if they are unable to work due to injury or long-term illness. Health insurance through the workplace can also give employees additional medical benefits for them and their loved ones.

Even with all the above in place, employees may need even further support, so employers could consider signposting to charities, consumer bodies and government support to ensure they get the help they need.

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Ultimately, the most crucial action for employers is building the right working environment so they can find out the financial situation of their employees, making sure staff are aware of existing support systems, and taking the steps to understand what more they can do to help.

Matthew Connell is a policy and public affairs director at the Chartered Insurance Institute.