How can employers support employees through the cost-of-living crisis? 

Advice on meaningful ways to support employees through Britain’s cost of living crisis.

Never have our purse strings been under more strain. The ‘cost of living crisis’ is here and is beginning to not only squeeze household budgets but also strangle them. The term refers to the fall in real incomes (adjusted for inflation and tax) that the UK has experienced since late 2021. 

The triggers post-pandemic include, but are not limited to, high inflation outstripping wage increases and predicted tax increases. This together with a spike in fuel, energy and food costs has meant that the pound does not stretch as far as it did and, for employers this means that their workforce is feeling the pinch and some, particularly those worst-affected such as lower income households, who also spend more on energy costs, need more support than ever before. 

Here is guidance on how to provide tangible help for those in or nearing financial crisis.

Provide safe counsel: Discussing financial concerns doesn’t come easily for all but it’s an important rung on American psychologist, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that we feel secure in order to perform. Not everyone is happy to speak out loud and proud, however. This is where a robust Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) can provide a confidential and important source for employees to air their concerns and get advice on how to manage their finances. Advertising these services internally plays an important part in boosting take-up. SMEs can also provide support, even where an EAP due to size does not exist. Having someone to turn to whether that is the managing director, an HR officer, a colleague or mentor is really important for employees that want to share their concerns. Making it known that it is good to share is a key message.

Make money work: Dentsu, a media and digital marketing communications company forecast that a massive 41% of UK adults will be at best ‘Budgeting to Survive’ over the coming year. This translates to 19 million people who will be facing real struggles making ends meet and feed their families. Employers can run webinars, talks, share vlogs, podcasts and general advice on how to make money work harder, from amalgamating debt to reducing energy costs and cooking on a budget. Employers can also consider hybrid working models to allow employees to reduce unnecessary commuting costs as well as introducing salary sacrifice loans as part of benefits packages, allowing employees to make payments direct from their wages in return for better rates. 

Encouraging longer-term financial planning is also key. It’s easy to forfeit contributions to pensions when money is tight but offering some alternatives including reducing the amount temporarily might be a better option. Savings schemes for big item events including Christmas or summer holidays can also help employees plan ahead for expensive times of the year.

Offer development opportunities: Up-skilled workers means boosted profits for the organisation and in turn can help employees raise their earnings. Boosted salaries can also be offered via performance related bonus schemes as well as being linked to company profit lines. Providing clear career progression routes can also establish a path ahead for not only more responsibility and a recognition of talent but also for higher earnings. Offering a brighter financial future is a key retention tool. It’s important that employees know there are days ahead when making ends meet may not be as challenging.

Read more about how to rethink your employer brand in this free downloadable ebook: Employer Branding Reboot: A guide for employers throughout the pandemic and beyond Need advice or help building your employer brand? Get in touch with Wonderful Workplaces on [email protected] 


Annie Hayes is a specialist HR, skills, careers and L&D writer with over 19 years’ experience in the sector. 

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