How can employers support in-work poverty

1 in 8 workers are estimated to be living in poverty, and with the cost of living rising on an almost daily basis, this figure is sadly expected to rise this year.

Having a job should be considered a positive step out of poverty and yet here we find many (including those in what was classed as frontline essential workers during the pandemic), leaning on support such as foodbanks and benefits to top up wages or faced with a choice of heating or eating.

It’s not always easy to spot someone is financially struggling, it’s still somewhat of a taboo subject, and many feel shame in asking for the help they desperately need. So, how can employers help support any of their employees ease the financial burden?

It all starts with an appreciation of your responsibility as an employer, offering a fair and decent wage for the roles they offer. Inflation is at a 30 year high, meaning workers today are facing some real challenges. Checking your rates of pay during these challenges is a great place to start. We all know that offering decent market rates of pay will also help in both attracting and retaining employees. We do understand that for some companies, particularly smaller companies, increasing pay may just not be an option, so what else can be considered?

Flexibility is also up there when it comes to support, and it’s now become almost more important than pay to a lot of people. Allowing employees to work flexible hours can really alleviate costs associated with things like commuting, childcare, clothing. If working from home isn’t an option, look at adjusting hours to allow off peak travel times etc. Every little will help when finances are tight.

Initiating a robust channel of communication for things like shifts and overtime availability and offering these in advance can help employees to plan time and their availability to help. Creating this as a 2-way process is vital, I’ve seen far too often where employees have felt compelled to take additional shifts, even when it’s cost them to come in (additional travel/childcare) for fear of being withheld additional shifts in the future.

Not all support needs to come from within the company, having trained managers who can open up support in the way of conversational, signposting of additional government, local community or charity help is also important for financial wellbeing too. Not everyone is looking to earn more money, stress could come from several factors and having access to advice, guidance, or support for those are just as important.

Finally, and it’s one area I do work on a lot with clients is opening up and sharing the progression plans for all roles. For some employees having a sight of how they can progress within the company and what training is open to them is ultimately what can keep them loyal.

Investing in training and progression for those who want to and show your employees no matter where they are in their career that there is a clear path to grow, earn and are valued members of the team! Let’s not forget your leaders too, be sure to give them the tools and techniques to be able to support all employees to open up, and progress.