Has the cost of living crisis had a positive impact on money stigma?

Employees who don’t feel comfortable sharing money worries at work say it’s because they don’t think their employer can help. This is despite organisations making significant investments in financial wellbeing during the global pandemic and cost-of-living crisis. What’s going on?

The underlying reasons for stigma have shifted

UK employees are now slightly more comfortable talking about money; in our Dynamics in Financial Wellbeing research, Bippit found 48% were comfortable, compared with the 45% reported by the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) in November 2020.

Read more: Cost of living Learning Hub

However, the reasons why people do not feel comfortable sharing have changed significantly.

Two years ago, internal anxieties were the main reasons cited by employees who didn’t feel comfortable sharing money worries at work.

Fast forward to 2023 and around half the number of employees as in 2021 cited internal anxieties as the main reason they didn’t share at work.

By far the largest number (42%) said they didn’t share at work because they didn’t think their employer could help.


Is the cost of living crisis responsible for these shifts?

It seems likely that people feel less driven by internal anxieties because the global pandemic and cost of living crisis have gone some way to normalise the conversation around money across society.

But while the shift away from internal anxieties is positive, it’s disheartening that the main reason now cited is a belief that their employer can’t help.

This is despite organisations across the UK making significant investments in financial wellbeing over the past three years.

How to get payroll right in the cost of living crisis

Employees are not aware of the support available and how it can help

Our research found that a third (29%) of employees say their organisation provides no financial wellbeing support. But none of the 660 HR directors we surveyed said the same thing.

We’re calling this the ‘perception gap'. There are two drivers of this perception gap.


Perception gap one: you’re implementing the wrong support

It might be that the support you’re offering isn’t useful to employees, who need to feel that the support offered is genuinely valuable and applicable to them.

Workforces are diverse, so a one-size-fits-all approach to financial wellbeing support is likely to only be suitable for a certain percentage of your people.

What to do differently: Deliver support that focuses on personalisation, and empowering individuals to take care of their own financial wellbeing. This means the support is relevant and applicable to all and inclusive by design.

Perception gap 2: you’re not communicating effectively

The best financial wellbeing support will only work if it is communicated effectively to the people who are going to use it. Many organisations don’t communicate enough and don’t tailor their communications to cohorts.

Your job is to embed the support available in the backs of your employees’ minds, so when they have a need for it, they remember it’s available.

Workers need to understand their pay to cope with the cost of living crisis

But we also need to make sure your communications are read, understood and remembered.

Generic comms are likely to drown in a sea of other things vying for attention, especially if sent via digital channels such as email. The more tailored communications are, the more likely they are to cut through.

What to do differently: Deliver tailored communications regularly, based around cohorts. Our research reveals, for example, considerable deviation in how willing women are to talk about money compared with men.

Acknowledging this fact when delivering communications to the women in your workforce recognises the extra challenges they may face and can pave the way for a conversation around, for example, pensions shortfalls.

Sam Lathey is CEO of financial wellbeing platform Bippit