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How employee benefits can help compensate staff for minimal pay rises

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CEST

When your organisation is making cuts or is financially stretched, staff can be under a lot of pressure to pick up the slack without any compensation. No more so than in the healthcare industry where many employees are working longer hours and covering for staff who have not been replaced.

The Government’s policy of an average 1 percent pay increase for public sector workers, including doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, is not seen as fair by many unions and undoubtedly many staff are struggling to make ends meet on low wages. While HR teams and managers can do little to change this, there are things that can be introduced to make healthcare salaries go a little further. It is important to consider what your organisation can do to make a real difference to employees. This is especially true for staff on low wages who want to save money and increase their household income. Perks such as meals out or free cinema tickets, whilst nice, are not going to help stretched employees to pay the bills.

However, there are employee benefit schemes available that can make a real difference by reducing employees’ outgoings and helping them stretch their wages further. These include: study by finance company Neyber of 1,000 UK workers in the healthcare sector, found that 68 percent of NHS staff are affected by financial stress. Similarly, accordingly to a report from the Money Advice Service, 1 in 6 UK adults are ‘over-indebted’ and struggle to keep on top of their borrowing.

With banks tightening their loans criteria, and the subprime lending industry in the UK growing, many people are taking loans they cannot afford: leading to a vicious cycle of debt. One way employers can help is to offer affordable loan schemes, giving staff access to fairer finance. In our experience, many employees are using these schemes to consolidate their debts (credit cards, personal loans etc.), to reduce their debt repayments, and to stop them escalating further. Some of the biggest outlays families and individuals have to make are on technology products: home electronics. This isn’t just about buying the latest mobile phone or entertainment system for your home. It’s also about the essentials, white goods, such as washing machines, fridges, vacuum cleaners etc. These are expensive goods to buy, and for cash strapped families replacing a faulty product puts them under financial strain.

So, consider whether offering a home electronics salary sacrifice scheme would help. These are beneficial to employees in three ways. Firstly, they offer a choice of products. Secondly, once the savings have been applied the item falls below the RRP, saving employees money. Lastly, employees will spread payments over time: helping people budget more effectively. Research done by Connected Benefits shows that employees value the ability to pay over time directly from their salary over the savings that are also made!

Neither of the schemes outlined above cost the employer anything, in fact, NHS Trusts will also make savings of 14.3 percent* on the value of salary sacrifice. Employees will benefit from savings and by spreading repayments into more affordable amounts; whilst employers have an opportunity to make a difference to their teams’ disposable income. In turn this can increase employee engagement and reduce stress, and have a positive impact on employee retention.

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