Last year, it was recorded that household debt in the UK was ‘worse than at anytime on record’. The average total debt per household, including mortgages, was £59,288 in October 2018, which is over £30,000 per adult.
Given these statistics it’s likely that every employer will, at some point, employ someone who is experiencing financial difficulties. Yet, around half of employers think that their employees’ financial wellbeing is not their responsibility. However, one of the biggest reasons that automotive industry people contact Ben for support is because of money worries, particularly debt and low income.
Employees who are worrying about money are likely to be stressed, and even anxious, so they are less likely to be focused and may make more mistakes at work. As a result of the stress they are under, they are also more likely to take time off work for illness.
Studies have shown that debt also has an impact on mental health – it can make existing mental health problems worse or actually cause a mental health problem. One in four British adults with a mental health problem also struggle with problem debt and those with problem debt are twice as likely to develop major depression as those not in financial difficulty.
Martin Lewis, Founder of Money Saving Expert, says: “Be under no illusions. Mental health problems can cause severe debt, and severe debt can cause mental health problems.”
So, with that in mind, Ben have put together some guidance for employers to help them support their people with money problems:
- Share Ben’s resources
Ben have just launched their new debt webpages to help people who are struggling with money worries. As an employer, you can spread the word and share these resources with your employees through your available communications channels so they know that they can always turn to Ben.
- Financial education
Many adults struggle to manage their finances due to financial products, such as pensions and loans, becoming more and more complicated and a lack of financial education at school. About 17m workers possess the numeracy skills of a primary school child, according to research by charity, National Numeracy and estimates poor numeracy could cost the economy £20bn per year.
Financial education can be as simple as providing leaflets, email newsletters, workshops or 1-to-1 sessions on basic financial management skills. Where possible, the rule of thumb is to offer employees a range of sources to get their information from.
- Consider paying a living wage
With a 5.7% decrease in the average real wage, more people are struggling to make ends meet. Also known as the ‘real Living Wage’, The Living Wage Foundation offers accreditation to employers who pay an independently calculated Living Wage (this is different to the Government’s ‘National Living Wage’). It’s based on what families need to live and, at January 2019, it stands at £10.55 per hour for London and £9.00 per hour for the rest of the UK.
According to the Living Wage Foundation, 93% of Living Wage business have reported benefits since becoming accredited. Additionally, 86% of Living Wage employers reported improved business reputation and 75% said that staff motivation and retention rates improved.
- Create a culture of support
Creating a culture where employees feel comfortable about seeking support can make all the difference. Recognising that financial stress is usually temporary and not a sign of the employee’s character is important, as is letting your employees know where they can turn if they are in financial difficulty.
- Refer your people to Ben
Ben can work with your employees on topics such as money management, budgeting, debt advice and retirement planning. They can get in touch by using the contact details on this page: www.ben.org.uk
After a life-changing event Brady quickly found himself in a spiral of financial hardship which took over his life, and like most of us, didn’t seek help. It wasn’t until an incident at work put him in touch with Ben that things started finally to change.
I had recently started working for a dealership when a supplier dropping a car off suddenly collapsed and had a heart attack right in front of my colleagues and I. My colleagues and I were in shock and really upset after this, so our employer asked Ben to come to the site and offer support to us. When the support team arrived, they asked me if I was alright… and I just broke down.
The trauma of seeing this poor man collapse right in front of me came on top of something else I was struggling to deal with. After speaking to the team at Ben I told them about my situation and how I felt like I couldn’t cope anymore.
My partner Amy and I have two children, and not long before the incident at work we had another daughter. She was born at 34 weeks and unfortunately passed away after two days. We were devastated. It completely crushed us. I had to take time off work to mourn, but as I was a new member of staff I wasn’t yet entitled to sick pay, so we quite quickly started to feel the pinch of not having enough money coming in.
I needed to make sure Amy and the children could be provided for, so I went to a payday lender and got a loan. But the relief from the financial pressure and keeping the family happy was short-lived. I was having to pay more and more back, which meant we started to spiral further and further into debt. More of my pay each month was going on debt payments, until eventually I struggled to pay my rent so the arrears mounted up.
When Ben’s advisors came to my dealership that day I was only a couple of weeks away from being evicted after a court order had been submitted for the rent I couldn’t pay. The debt spiral just didn’t stop and it was on my mind 24/7. I was so stressed all the time because of it, with decisions like ‘Do I pay for Christmas presents for the kids or pay rent this month?’; It was exhausting.
Once I spoke to the Ben support team I was allocated an advisor who jumped into action and helped me and my family straight away. I was given counselling for the loss of my daughter and we were provided with advice and support on how to manage and reduce the debt we have. My employers were also great at supporting me, so in a short space of time I have gone from constant worry and despair to seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
If I wasn’t for Ben I don’t know what would have happened to us. What I do know is that I tell everyone at work to contact Ben if they have an issue, as the advisors who helped me are an absolute credit to the charity. If it wasn’t for the care, advice and support they provided, my family may well have been homeless.
Life will never be the same after the loss of our daughter, but Ben have certainly helped improve things for us.