Cost of living crisis 

How far should a good employer go in assisting employees ?

There are reports of employers giving their staff hardship grants, low cost meals and vouchers to buy their children’s school uniforms. Others have set up food banks, provided salary advances, are allowing employees children to eat in the staff canteen for £1. and subsidising public transport costs. 

But if an organisation needs to set up food banks for it’s employees shouldn’t it be looking at what it pays staff ? Of course it should but some of the countries biggest employers don’t control what they pay staff. The NHS has a national wage structure and the government in effect determines what doctors, nurses and auxiliary staff are paid. This is true not just of the public sector many care organisations can’t make inflation rate uplifts to low paid employees because the LA’s who purchase their services are in a poor financial state. Some employers have tried to address this by offering fixed sum pay increases rather than percentage salary increases as this benefits the low paid more.

Many senior HR managers whilst recognising the financial constraints within their organisation believe that their is a moral responsibility towards employees experiencing sever financial hardship due to the cost of living crisis. From a purely practical point of view staff need to be able to fill their car up with petroleum at the beginning of the week to get to work and they need to feed their children in the school holidays. Staff who get into debt or have money problems are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety which will impact on their performance and attendance at work.


 But is a food bank the answer? Any practical help has to be given in away that is not degrading or demeaning to employees. It should also say something positive about the organisation and relationship with its employees. Food banks say  “ This organisation pays it’s staff so badly they have to given them food handouts to feed their families”. 

Interest free loans, salary advances to meet unexpected bills like the car or washing machine breaking down, deals with local supermarkets that allow employees to get a significant discount, free parking at work or a refund on parking costs, assistance towards travel cost in getting to work , reintroduction of staff canteen or pop up restaurant offering subsidised meals. For those working from home generous allowances to take account of the significant increase in utility bills. Free child care or after school facilities. Child care cost make up a significant proportion of house hold expenditure in young families additional support would reduce this cost and may free up the worker to do more hours. The same offer needs to be made to employees with other caring responsibilities such as an elderly or disabled relative. 


Clearly there is a lot an employer can do to make life easier for their staff which doesn’t involve a double digit percentage pay rise. 


Blair Mcpherson former Director author and blogger 

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