Employees struggling to keep on top of bills

A report published yesterday shows more people are applying for high-cost credit cards and struggling to make ends meet with spending rising sharply as the UK emerges from the pandemic. 

The study, carried out by Sapio for financial health platform Hastee, found 61% of respondents admitted to wasting £100 a week on unnecessary luxuries such as eating out, alcohol and shopping, since coming out of lockdown.

The online annual study into workplace wellbeing took place last month with 2,000 UK workers split evenly across age, gender and geographic area. 

The most likely to admit to wasteful spending were 25 to 34-year-olds in the West Midlands, Scotland and Wales.

Meanwhile 63% (2020: 59%) of those surveyed said they had been forced to apply for high-cost credit facilities to help make ends meet, despite feeling they couldn’t make repayments, in order to pay bills on time and pay for essential food items.

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Furthermore 46% said they were living from 'paycheck to paycheck' and while 40% said that flexible pay options from employers would help them improve their financial health and 60% would be more likely to stay with an employer who offered this, a worrying 46% said their companies offered no form of employee benefits for their physical, mental or financial health. 

Gary Dewin, people director at Co-op, said: “We have a comprehensive financial support programme for all colleagues. This includes access to loan facilities including with our credit unions, for example. Colleagues are also able to get pay advances in between pay cycles, which is another way of supporting them. Our people Team does an amazing job in making this transparent and clear to our colleagues. 

"They've made a huge effort in the last couple of years to provide financial wellbeing support and services for colleagues.  We have co-created these with our colleagues based on what matters most to them.  It’s really important to support both their financial and mental wellbeing so they are in a better place to continue to help us deliver the best service we can. It is really making a difference."

According to the data, it is those earning between £40,000 and £75,000 a year who are most unlikely to clear their debts every month (20%), rather than those in lower income brackets.

Those earning over £75,000 a year were the most likely to have increased their use of high-cost credit (28%) when compared with last year.

However, according to Hastee’s Workplace Wellbeing Study, 34% of workers felt their financial health had actually improved during the course of the pandemic.

This sentiment was most common from London respondents (42%), followed by Northern Ireland (38%) and the North East (35%).

Hastee’s founder James Herbert said: “Now is a pivotal time for people’s financial health. While we are seeing positive change with a growing awareness of the perils of high-cost credit and the terrible impact financial stress is having on many people’s lives, far too many are left with little choice and are denied the opportunity to make more constructive long-term financial decisions. 

“Employers can and should support the financial health of their staff through education, greater financial flexibility and the tools to manage their outgoing expenditure with their incoming salary in real-time. Financial health should be considered just as important as any other workplace wellbeing initiative, and it’s a reality that is slowly taking shape.”