Pub management organisation Stonegate Pubs, which operates 770 pubs and bars across the UK, including brands such as Slug and Lettuce, and Walkabout, has 15,000 employees overall, 12,000 of whom are paid on an hourly rate. Roles include bar staff, kitchen staff, salaried management and a 450-strong central support team.
Making the organisation a place employees feel supported is important. Tim Painter, HR director at Stonegate, says: “Better employee engagement results in better results, [and where] people are in demand, [culture] can be quite a significant differentiator.”
Across the board, Stonegate Pubs employees are paid on a monthly basis; however, in March 2019, the organisation decided to offer its staff the opportunity for more control over their finances between paydays.
“It was all about seeking to really meet that increasing trend in society of giving people more access and control over the way they want to live,” Painter explains. “In the realms of pay, we felt this was a really neat way of doing that.”
The flexible pay benefit, provided by Wagestream, allows staff to access up to 30% of their earned pay, in a maximum of three installments, prior to the monthly payday. Employees are only able to access money they have already earned during their working hours.
The service is available via an app, I Choose, through which employees can also access their payslip and information about upcoming rotas, as well as information and contacts surrounding financial health. So far, 7,000 employees have signed up, reports Painter.
The key to successfully bringing in flexible pay options, without opening employees up to potential budgeting and financial wellbeing issues, was about striking a balance between autonomy and paternalism.
“We are trying to get the right balance of giving [staff] access, we don’t want them going out and getting a terrible payday loan in week four of the pay cycle, but also [want to] make sure [they] have money at the end of the month. We’re trying to strike that balance between access and responsibility,” explains Painter.
Since the introduction of the new system, retention at Stonegate Pubs has improved. The hope is that, in the future, pay flexibility will further lead to improved wellbeing and financial health, reducing the likelihood that staff will turn to high interest payday loans for emergency expenses, or that they will feel burdened by financial pressures despite having technically earned the means to address them.
“The feedback has been exceptionally positive,” Painter concludes. “We did have some managers who were concerned we were encouraging people to spend money rather than look after it, but people have actually said this is working really well. It is just giving people more options, and feedback from employees has been fantastic.
“We know all of the concerns socially around wellbeing and financial health, and the whole scenario of the debt cycle; this is an important aspect of helping our people look after their financial health. This money belongs to the employee, we are simply giving [them] control.”