How can HR support employees during cost of living crisis?

Prime minister Liz Truss announced yesterday (8 September) the government's plan to help UK residents with energy bills - but what other measures can companies take to support their employees through the crisis?

Household bills will be capped to £2,500 a year for two years from October 2022, with businesses getting an equivalent support package for six months.

The government will also negotiate long-term contracts with energy suppliers to try and keep prices down in the future. 

Here are some other ways employers are supporting their staff.

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How should you talk to employees about the cost-of-living crisis?


Bonuses and expenses

Banking groups Lloyds, Nationwide and HSBC and travel company British Airways have offered employees up to £2,500 in bonuses, while  food company Heinz offered staff an 11% pay rise to offset living costs.

Retailer John Lewis has also offered free food to all staff between October 2022 and January 2023 to help employees during a busy Christmas period

Steve Herbert, wellbeing and benefits director at Partners&, said small gestures from businesses would offer practical help to employees during this time. 

He told HR magazine: "Allowing expenses to be claimed weekly rather than monthly will help ease some worker cashflow concerns, and providing employees with a choice as to where to work (home or office) will enable the employee to select the cheapest option when allowing for their heating, energy, and travel costs."

"Secondly, review what support is already available within the existing employee benefits offering. Often free debt counselling advice or employee discount schemes have been forgotten about over time and can provide some free and practical support for workers."

Mona Akiki, chief people officer at employee benefits provider Perkbox, told HR magazine that companies should ensure that existing benefits aren't going to waste.

She said: "HR functions should look into impactful cost-savings they can provide through their wider rewards and benefits offering. For example, can they provide savings on regular expenses – grocery shopping, school supplies, wellbeing support – to help take some of the strain off when workers need it most.

"If benefits already exist but are not being used, HR teams should probe into this and find out if communication, a complex administration, or whether the benefits relevance to their workforce is the problem. Simply put, in a time of global cost of living crisis, organisations need to ensure that their rewards & benefits resonate with their employees and are truly helping them stretch their money.”



Shakil Butt, founder of HR consultancy HR Hero for Hire, added that companies may not have to incur massive extra costs in order to help employees.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: "Not everything has to mean incurring more costs as business but can require more innovative thinking such as facilitating car-sharing arrangements for staff making the daily commute or alternatively allow more staff to work from home to save on commuting costs.

"However some quick fixes can create more issues by not being inclusive such as having subsidised meals at work which supports those working in the office but can result in others feeling excluded if something is not made available to staff working from home."