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Employers fail to give financial guidance

Businesses worry about getting too involved with the financial lives of staff and the costs of doing so

Employers are failing to provide the financial support and guidance desired by employees, according to research by Thomsons Online Benefits.

Employee Benefits Watch 2018/19 found that employees' short- and medium-term financial needs had been neglected.

Of the 450 UK employers surveyed, 67% did not offer any form of financial guidance, 80% did not offer workplace ISAs, 81% did not offer debt consolidation, 79% did not offer mortgage brokering, and 70% did not offer debt counselling.

This is despite UK employees facing mounting financial pressures, the research stated.

It cited data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) that shows for the first time since records began UK households are more likely to be borrowers than savers. Meanwhile, figures from UK Finance show an annual growth rate of 8.3% in outstanding credit card debt in February 2018, the highest for 12 years.

The report found that employers have improved efforts around supporting employees’ physical wellbeing, with 40% more employers now offering private or virtual GP services compared with 2017. However, employers perceive barriers to taking the same approach to financial health, it found.

Almost one in four (22%) expressed concern over the risk of getting too involved with the financial lives of their staff, 20% believe that it is not their role to do so, and 24% worry about the cost of assisting.

David Dodd, consulting director at Thomsons Online Benefits, said: “Employers are making clear strides when it comes to caring for the physical health of their employees. However, the gap in financial and mental health support means that they’re failing to deliver a holistic wellbeing strategy.

"At a time when employees are struggling financially, and the top talent is in higher demand than ever, it’s paramount employers work to help employees with their financial health, or risk losing them to competitors.”

While only 10% of UK employers currently have a financial wellness strategy in place more than 50% plan to implement one.

Energy provider OVO Energy has developed a financial wellness strategy to support its goal of attracting, retaining and growing the best talent.

"With over 80% of our workforce under 35, we knew we had to go beyond traditional, long-term savings options," said Joanna Fairweather, reward manager at OVO Energy. "[So] we developed a scheme incorporating a flex fund, workplace ISA and free mortgage broking; offerings to meet the demands of a 21st century workforce".

Employee Benefits Watch 2018/19 surveyed 450 UK employers representing approximately 1.8 million employees in the UK.