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Time to move employee financial wellbeing up the agenda

At the REBA Employee Wellness Conference last month, I was struck by three overwhelming thoughts:

  1. It was magnificent to see financial education included in the employee wellness debate, especially evident in Michelle Bradshaw’s Oracle case study
  2. It was shocking and brilliant to hear Steve Bell, CEO at iris, say that having a wellness strategy is “not a one night stand” – it needs boards to commit budget, time and genuine effort
  3. It was nice to be back under the Lorica banner – and even nicer to be told as much by so many lovely delegates, who were pleased to see us back in the workplace benefits community

My view is simple; helping your employees to better understand and manage their money can deliver significant value back to your business. Money worries are one of the greatest causes of stress; and stress is one of the biggest causes of employee absence and ‘presenteeism’. On the whole, the UK population lacks financial resilience. Research from Barclay’s in September 2014 (‘Financial Wellbeing: The Last Taboo in the Workplace’) highlighted that 70% of us are in, or close to, financial trouble.

Teach financial education at schools?

This is so glaringly obvious. Financial education should sit as part of the curriculum. Sadly it does not, simply due to cost. As vice chair of governors at a state school with 1,200 pupils, I can state this with certainty. It is mentioned in passing during PSHCEE (personal, social, health, community, environmental and economic) lessons, which quite rightly take a more pastoral care line. But, as it is not part of the curriculum, there is no agreed format or content.

Like many others in our industry, I have given up some of my time to deliver some basic financial education lessons at two local schools. One thing this has proved to me is that there is genuine interest from the pupils. Sadly, the lack of financial knowledge I see in schools is often reflected in the attendees at workplace financial education sessions, especially at graduate and apprentice level.

I am therefore delighted that so many employers are starting to see the benefits of providing financial education as part of their wellness strategy. One of our recent engagements is to deliver some basic financial wellbeing sessions to new apprentices at a large construction company, covering:

  • workplace pensions and tax relief
  • saving for a mortgage and the new LISA
  • debt management
  • how interest rates work
  • explanation of shares and dividends

Although there may be little ROI to track immediately, the board here has clearly decided – doing the right thing for employees can never be a one night stand.

 

 

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