· 1 min read · Features

How can HR help employees in fuel poverty?

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Millions of British households are set to face crippling rises in their electricity and gas bills next winter, with the latest projections suggesting the energy price cap will nearly double to £2,400 a year from October.

Research from think tank Resolution Foundation found the 9% of English homes currently experiencing fuel stress is expected to rise to 27% when the energy price cap rises in April, an increase of more than 50%.

The rise in energy bills adds extra anxiety onto employers trying to keep wages at a similar level to rocketing inflation rates. What therefore can HR do to prevent its employees from experiencing fuel poverty?


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Sue Swanborough, HR director, Europe Snacks Kolak

Options businesses could choose to adopt to avoid fuel poverty in their workplace is to reduce other expenses incurred through travel and commute costs, for example encourage home working or car shares. 

HR could also look to include salary sacrifice and retailer voucher schemes as well as providing the opportunity to buy and sell holiday, though they will need to be mindful of wellbeing and make sure employees are still taking sufficient days off

Employees can also be supported through their personal situation through advice and support on budget management via an employee assistance programme. There are organisations offering financial wellbeing packages which include phasing salary payments, and these are gaining traction

 

Charles Cotton, senior performance and reward adviser, CIPD

What’s driving the jump in their workers’ fuel and energy bills is something employers can’t control; many firms will also be facing their own cost increases. However, that doesn’t mean that originations can’t do anything. 

An immediate step HR can take is to start a conversation with employees about their concerns, signpost information and guidance about dealing with energy bills, and share energy saving tips. However, care must be taken to use the right tone of language, so people don’t see the suggestions as condescending or patronising.

In the longer term, we’d recommend HR help their organisations create a financial wellbeing policy that’s aligned to its physical and mental wellbeing policies and tackles both the causes and symptoms of financial distress. They could also consider offering benefits that help staff reduce their energy usage.

 

Check back tomorrow for part two of this hot topic.

 

This piece appears in the January/February 2022 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.