How HR can support employees worrying about rent

HR is concerned employees do not feel they can come to them for support during challenging times, as new research has found adults in the UK are worried about keeping up rent payments.

Homeless charity Shelter found that one in seven adults (14%), the equivalent of more than six million people in England, are worried about becoming homeless due to the pandemic.

Shelter’s survey also found that in just the last month, 24% of private renters have had to borrow money to pay their rent, 18% have cut back on food or skipped meals to pay their rent and 12% have cut back on heating their home to pay their rent.

Caroline Nugent, HR director at Financial Ombudsman Service, said as the pandemic continues, it is imperative for both HR and line managers to know and understand about their employees lives outside of work.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Through the past year it’s been evident that engagement of staff has remained where they have actually felt supported, and they are more than just an employee number.

“Everyone should be encouraged to talk about what is happening in their lives as it might affect their wellbeing and how they perform at work.”

Nugent said life-altering issues such as homelessness, can lead to dangerous thoughts about self-harm and HR must support employees who are affected by this and show them they have options.

She said: “Some employers for example can advance pay which can be paid back each month over a year and others have notice boards where you can advertise for flat sharers to help out.

“Talking is the most important thing during a difficult time, as two heads are better than one and HR and managers can often find solutions, they just need to be aware of the problem.”

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said the findings highlighted the toll the pandemic has had on the mental health of private renters, a group that have been hit hard over the last year.

Darren Baxter, housing policy and partnerships manager at JRF, said: “JRF’s own research last year found millions of people were anxious about paying their rent over winter, and as no action has been taken on rent arrears since then, it is concerning but perhaps unsurprising that these fears have only intensified.”

Baxter warned the chancellor’s silence on support for rent arrears in the Spring Budget would lead to widespread money worries among Britons.

He said: “Sunak announced he was freezing housing benefit levels and prioritising policies that will maintain high house prices.

“However, we are concerned that the temporary eviction ban is the only dam holding back a flood of evictions, and that once it is removed in May, we will see a wave of repossessions and a surge in homelessness.”

How HR can support employees during the pandemic:

How to support employee mental health as they return back to work

Employers reconsider financial wellbeing for employees post-coronavirus

In-work poverty: All work and no pay