Government Aims To Address Debt Burden Through No Interest And Extended Repayment Schemes

According to the Office of National Statistics, for the first time in 30 years, UK households have collectively spent more than they have earned in 2017. Their total expenditure for the period came to on average £900 more than their income; thus pushing them into a financial deficit for the first time since the credit card boom of the 1980s. The deficit, which amounted to nearly £25bn, was equivalent to almost a quarter of the NHS budget. Though most households fell into the cycle of overspending with the money they had borrowed, a number of the households also ran down their savings.

The government, in its autumn budget, announced new measures to help citizens in debt. Referred to as the ‘Breathing space’ scheme and the ‘No-interest loans’ scheme, these measures aim to tackle the problem faced by about three million people in Britain, who are facing the pressure of debt caused by borrowing from high-cost lenders such as payday and credit card companies.

Currently, over 16.8 million people in Britain have less than £100 savings. This leads to financial stress and takes a toll on their mental health. Over a million people turned to high-cost credit last year to meet their basic living expenses, which is in the end counterproductive both for households and the country’s economy. The problem of high-cost credit is intensified by insecurity in the labour market and the growing use of zero-hour contracts. This, in turn, implies that when people do not plan their budget and overspend, they get into debt, as they have no savings. This will have a negative impact on their credit ratings, distancing them even further from fair credit opportunities.

Therefore, the UK government, working with leading debt charities and the banking industry, has decided to launch a feasibility study to help design a pilot for a ‘No-interest loans’ scheme in early 2019. While, under the other ‘Breathing Space’ scheme, people who are in debt will get a 60-day period of protection against creditor action. This will give them more time to seek advice and make plans to repay their debt in a manageable way.

The decision makers drew inspiration from the No Interest Loans Scheme of Australia, which provides people with low incomes access to safe, fair and affordable access to credit. The scheme offers loans of up to $1,500 for essential goods and services and not for cash. Repayments are structured over 12 – 18 months. There are no interest charges or fees.

Though there are many organisations imparting financial education to create awareness for lowering debt and increase savings, there is a need for a strong practical solution that can work alongside these plans. FairQuid, a financial wellbeing platform, believes credit unions play a central role in tackling these issues.

Currently, credit unions in the United Kingdom could help millions of Britons who are excluded from mainstream finance. They play an important role in facilitating savings and offering affordable loans to their members. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulates credit unions but as they are run for the benefit of members, not shareholders, they can offer ethical saving schemes, competitive loans and other financial products, not usually available to individuals excluded from traditional financial organisations.

The FairQuid Wellbeing Platform has been designed to work in tandem with employers to develop innovative solutions that benefit both credit unions and employees. It is a win-win situation for all. The platform educates employees about personalised financial tools to make better finance-related decisions and take control of their finances. On the other hand, for employers, it prevents mental health issues in workplace, boosts engagement levels, and increases employee retention.

The budget also has a provision to support this credit union sector. To help people increase their financial resilience while boosting awareness and membership of these community organisations, the budget commits to launch a pilot of a new ‘prize-linked saving’ scheme for credit unions.

By helping households manage their unexpected costs through increased access to fair and affordable credit, and motivating them to create a safety net of savings, the government is taking a big step towards its citizens “being and feeling financially secure, today and in the long run.”

A proactive approach to avoiding bad press in the Gig Economy

Gig economy work provides choice and flexibility. In theory, that is what self-employed workers want. But it doesn’t stop there.

Companies such as Uber, Deliveroo, TaskRabbit, and many others are responsible for providing over 1.3 million people with an income in the UK. Although we love the convenience and often cheaper prices these services provide, it is concerning to read the negative press around gig economy workers rights.

Several tribunals and court cases have demonstrated that gig economy workers aren’t self-employed, in the traditional sense. Under UK law, they are limb (b) workers, entitled to many of the same rights as employees, such as such as paid holidays, minimum wage and protection from discrimination. However, judges, the government, trade unions and the Taylor review all support the further strengthening of gig economy workers rights.

What can gig economy employers do?

Take action. As we have seen with Uber, local authorities can take action to shut down operations (in London and York, so far). Judges can also fine companies that fail to respect workers rights. Is a change in the law far away? One cannot be certain, which is why taking a proactive approach is the most sensible way forward.

For companies in this sector, now is the perfect time to take on these challenges proactively before it’s too late. Offer something new. Give freelancers another reason to use your platform and keep working with you, thereby solving another problem: high turnover amongst partners.

One of the main reasons people provide services through gig economy platforms is to boost income. Or get out of debt. Or start saving. Help them achieve these goals. We can help you do that, at no charge to you.

Increase savings, reduce debts: Support your teams

With a FairQuid Save As You Borrow loan, we use the point of borrowing to nudge people to save. Together with not-for-profit, member-owned partners, Credit Unions, we provide fair access to credit and help people get financially fit. Repayments and pre-determined savings amounts are deducted straight from salaries. Eligibility is based on length of service and performance with the employer thus rewarding loyalty to be used as a credit currency.

Our partner employers that are already offering these to their people have found that productivity and engagement are up, and turnover down. For those in the gig economy, this makes a huge difference for customers, since they will receive a better quality of service by highly valued workers. Everyone wins. And with a benefit rooted in the strong commitment to your people’s financial wellbeing, this should go a long way towards demonstrating which side of the employee rights debate your company is on. Contact us to learn more, today.

How to Save as you Borrow (as an Employee)

2 min read

Saving money isn’t easy. Especially when you’re juggling debts. Putting money aside for a rainy day isn’t something we, as a nation, are very good at anymore.

Since the recession, banks have encouraged consumers to borrow money. Interest rates are low, so why not treat yourself? Get a new sofa. A new car. Go to Spain. Buy that shiny gadget you’ve had your eye on for a while. Treat yourself. Treat the kids. Have fun! You only live once (YOLO).

Unfortunately, this mindset has, for millions of families, created an unhealthy relationship with money. For the first time in 30 years, UK households collectively spent more than they earned in 2017. Since over 16 million people have less than £100 in savings, how does one support all this spending? In one word: Debt

Low savings and debt: Impact on employees

Low levels of savings alongside debt is a toxic combination. It causes stress. A lot of it. With sleepless nights, one in four employees has struggled to perform at work due to money worries.

Ultimately, it’s felt at the workplace. Anxiety and stress can cause accidents and absenteeism. With struggling staff, it can also drag down productivity and most importantly – the overall well-being of your people.

Many think that financial stress is something of a taboo, especially at work. Team members aren’t likely to raise these issues with a manager or HR. This puts employers in an unfortunate position that they’re negatively impacted by problems they aren’t aware of and seemingly can’t do much to control or improve.

So what can you do, as an employer, to help your employees where they need it most?

Encouraging positive change

So we already know it’s tough to save when you’re steeped in debt. Without the safety net of savings, anything can go wrong, putting employees at risk.

When you’re looking for credit, there are many barriers to affordable access to credit. For one, your credit score history can leave you with nowhere else to turn but high-interest rate options such as credit cards, overdraft accounts and payday lenders.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. We’ve got a solution! We enable loyalty and performance with the employer to be used as a credit currency.

What does that mean? Instead of historical credit scores, we measure the current length of service and performance to assess the eligibility of a loan. Using these innovative metrics, means we solve the problem of access to credit because our approval rates get up to 97%. There’s no point providing an employee benefit if it can’t benefit all your employees, right?

Couple this with an attached savings component which nudges employees to, ‘Save as you Borrow’, and voilà – we are changing behaviour for the future! And we really are. Most employees continue saving long after they have paid off their loan.

So how do we pull this off? Our partners are not-for-profit, member-owned, financial cooperatives. In short, Credit Unions. We connect employees to these ethical organisations through our platform, giving them access to the fair credit they deserve.

Partnering with responsible employers that want to offer a benefit that really matters, we are on a mission to bring fair finance to all. We want to put people back on track to saving, becoming debt-free, and being part of the co-operative financial community – one employee at a time!

Get in touch! Let’s be part of the movement to improve employee’s lives together!

Supporting Credit Unions through the #WorkNotWorry Campaign

Read time: 2 mins

Not enough savings and too much debt is a painfully stressful reality for millions of people across the UK. Credit unions are at the forefront of driving change and we, at FairQuid, are right beside them providing access to fair credit.

ABCUL (Association of British Credit Unions Limited) has launched the #WorkNotWorry campaign, with the aim to get more people to start saving and benefiting from credit unions. If you haven’t heard of them, credit unions are not-for-profit, member-owned financial co-operatives. Members (anyone who has an account with them), enjoy the same saving deposit scheme protections and services as high street banks but with better benefits. They can earn dividends, so when the credit union and local community does well, so do the members.

What causes worry at work?

Research shows that 46% of employees are worried about money, and 59% of those feel they’re not performing at their bestbecause of this stress. It doesn’t help that 1 in 4 are not getting enough sleep, which is understandable when 16 million adults have less than £100 in savings, according to the Money Advice Service (MAS).

Media stories about record levels of debt and people with not enough savings always sound like these are problems that happen in other companies, to other people. However, as we know from working with companies across the country, these problems have an impact on more staff than companies realise.

It’s a scary reality that millions of people, including those with families to support, are carrying more debt than they can afford and living one pay cheque to the next. Together with the employer, we can change this.

What can employers do?

When employees are caught in a vicious cycle of perpetual debt they need practical help. As money worries persist, team members can become less productive, take time off sick, make mistakes, and could start looking for another job.

In partnership with credit unions, we offer a practical solution through our innovative wellbeing platform. At FairQuid, both our employee financial wellbeing products have attached savings components whether you Save as you Borrow or Save with a Purpose. We have found that when nudged to save, the majority keep saving after the debt has been fully paid, changing behaviour for the future and working towards becoming debt-free. Combined loan and saving payments come direct from net wages, making it easier for people to budget without having to find spare cash for savings.

Most financial institutions only use credit scores to assess eligibility for credit. However, we know that doesn’t give everyone the fairest chance at accessing finance when they need it most. With our partner credit unions, we reward employee loyalty by assessing eligibility on the length of service and performance. This way, we give employees a way out of debt and into savings, changing long-term attitudes to money, and significantly reducing stress at work.

We believe in the power of the community to help each other and therefore are proud to support credit unions to increase their impact and raise awareness through the #WorkNotWorry campaign.

Want to support your team where they need it most? Join the FairQuid movement and help your staff to #WorkNotWorry! Contact us today.

Improve Your Employee Financial Wellbeing With Practical Solutions

Once known as a nation of savers, UK consumers are now more likely to use credit than savings for emergencies and other purchases such as holidays.

Savings are at the lowest levels since 1963. Over a decade of low-interest rates since the recession, have made it easier to borrow and reduced the benefits of keeping money in savings accounts.

Since the Office for National Statistics (ONS) started collecting data on borrowing in 1987, UK households became net borrowers in 2017. A worrying trend. It means the amount people borrow now exceeds the amount they’re depositing in bank accounts, pushing savings ratios to record lows, currently at 4.9% of their disposable income.

We’ve seen this before

High levels of debt, governments, banks and property companies encouraging people to buy houses, low levels of savings, and some economic uncertainty. It sounds too familiar, too much like the opening scenes of the world economic meltdown.

Brexit doesn’t help matters either, throwing a whole other set of uncertainties into the mix.

A debt charity, StepChange spokeswoman, said to the BBC “If we could shift that balance a bit, especially for lower income households, we could improve the financial wellbeing of many households and prevent many experiencing problem debt.”

An accessible emergency savings fund of £1,000 per household would lift 500,000 out of problem debt. People could use savings when necessary, instead of turning to predatory lenders.

Can and should employers help?

Yes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to lend money to staff or increase wages. Companies can only afford salary increases in-line with their own budgets and revenue forecasts. Lending money comes with huge challenges and implications so isn’t always advisable either.

Financial education, although well-meaning, only goes so far and fails to tackle the real problem: Managing too much debt and not enough savings. Companies rarely get much of an ROI from such programs, and employees don’t feel the benefits.

Offering practical solutions, for a practical problem, is the way forward. FairQuid Employee Wellbeing Solutions are a practical solution that is proving popular amongst employees at companies we are working with. Members of your team can gain access to loans (with automatic, built-in savings accounts) from Credit Unions.

Not only do these services reduce employee financial stress, it means they can start saving straight away.

With debts reducing and savings growing, employee absence, time off due to stress, and turnover, reduces. Be a responsible business and join us to support employees to become debt-free, today.

Putting Nobel Prize Winning Nudge Theory in Action With FairQuid

Richard Thaler won the Nobel prize for economics in 2017 for his contributions to behavioural economics. His ideas, known as “nudge theory” could play an important role in encouraging staff to reduce debts and save more, which improves retention and reduces recruitment and training costs.

Nudge theories have already been put into practice across many countries.

In the UK, Thaler’s belief that when policies are skewed towards people’s long-term self-interest, have already positively impacted pensions, reduced smoking and increased organ donation.

Championing the concept of “nudging” people was behind the government’s 2012 pensions auto-enrolment policy that meant private businesses and employees needed to opt-out rather than opt-in. It has successfully and massively increased private pension contributions.

Nudge Theory in Action

In 2010, the behavioural science and economics professor at the University of Chicago was part of the coalition government “nudge team”, which explored everything from vaping to energy and organ donations. Known as the Behavioural Insights Team, it’s credited with encouraging 100,000 extra organ donations and persuading 20% more people to shop around for a cheaper energy provider.

The theory achieved widespread attention when Thaler co-wrote a book with US professor Cass Sunstein in 2008: Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Since then, nudge concepts have been put into practice around the world in the public, private and charities sector, many times with resounding success.

Not that they are without critics. Some on the right say they’re too paternalistic, even when they achieve results that help those directly involved and the public. Whereas, some on the left claim these concepts are neoliberal – concepts popular during the Bush administration – since they rely on individual choice instead of overt state action.

Although popular with academics and governments, we need to see how these theories could be applied in the workplace. Could nudge theories help employers retain more staff, reducing talent acquisition and training costs?

In our view and with the experience we have had with employers, we know they can. FairQuid is putting nudge theory into practice.

Staff and Employer Benefits

Far too much data exists to show that people in the UK are in more debt than ever and are saving far less than we should. We are, unwittingly, leading ourselves down the same road that led to the last global recession.

Too much debt and not enough savings directly impacts employees. Staff are stressed about money. This won’t affect all of your team all of the time, of course, but once a percentage of your staff are worried about money often enough it will impact productivity, absence rates, stress levels and illnesses. Especially this time of year, in autumn and winter, when the need for money is greater (Summer is gone, and Christmas is approaching) and colder weather makes people more likely to get colds and flus.

What happens when existing credit limits prevent staff from spending much more, yet they need more for presents and other seasonal costs?
One of two things: People try and borrow more, which could mean payday loans, or they look for a new, better paying job. Either way, you lose a member of staff, or stress and absence rates increase as a result of larger debt burdens.

There is another way. With FairQuid, we offer consolidation loans that include a savings account and savings products. Financial wellbeing for staff, which costs your business nothing. Below is a table outlining what happens when someone takes out a consolidation loan that automatically includes a savings account.

(1.) Christmas is approaching. A customer spends too much, pushing them further into debt since they haven’t had time to pay down debts since the Summer.

(2.) They are offered FairQuid Financial Wellbeing products at work, taking out a consolidation loan that gives them a little extra credit whilst paying off existing debts and opening an automatic savings accounts. Funds are taken directly from source, so they get used to budgeting a new amount whilst reducing their debts and starting to save.

(3.) In time, debts are fully paid off, and savings continue, which is what 90% of FairQuid Financial Wellbeing customers do after they clear their debts.

That is, one of the ways, how we can help you put Nobel prize-winning ideas into action, which means employees don’t look for a new job and are less stressed and more present at work.

As an employer, you can do something about these issues (whilst also ensuring your staff are more productive and engaged) – thanks to FairQuid Credit Union savings accounts. Best of all, these won’t cost your business a penny. Find out more today.

Why Savings Through Payroll Deductions Benefits Employers and Employees

Wages are not rising as fast as living expenses. Growth is slow, and companies are, understandably, hesitant to increase payroll costs. At the same time, employees – consumers – are borrowing more than ever and savings are at a record low.

This isn’t some scene setting exercise for an article in The Economist. Unfortunately, this is the economic reality of Brexit Britain.

Retailers need consumers to keep spending, So do service companies and house builders. Banks are keen they keep spending too, but all of this means it’s easier to borrow money than save.

At the same time, the cost of living – inflation – keeps increasing, up 2.7% in May 2017 – from 2.6% in April, according to The Consumer Prices Index (CPIH), which can’t keep pace with salary increases. Again, forcing consumers to borrow or dip into savings when costs increase or they need to spend more.

With the Summer behind us and Christmas on the horizon, most parents will be feeling an acute pain in the wallet or when the next credit card statement hits.

Savings Recommendations vs Reality

Debt charity, StepChange, recommend most people have at least £1000 set aside in savings. For one in four families in the UK, those that earn less than £1,500 per month (after tax), that simply isn’t realistic or practical. In reality, savings amongst low earners is usually around £95 – an amount that can be easily wiped out when an unexpected bill hits or one month is more expensive than another, such as during the Summer or Christmas. Even that £1000 figure is too high for 70% of adults in the UK.

Saving money is not easy for employees who live paycheque to paycheque.

For most families, even those with two paycheques and working tax credits or another government benefit, getting to that £1000 in savings can be a struggle. Once money comes in, it’s usually allocated to something – mortgage/rent, bills, food shops, kids, everyday money and the occasional treat. Savings is a nice to have, but when credit is cheap and easy to access, not a must-have, at least not every month.

An alternative: A benefit employers can offer employees?

Companies can offer staff an alternative solution.

An employee benefit Savings account, with the amount an employee wants to save automatically deducted from salary payments. Instead of staff struggling to find money to put aside after they’ve been paid, with automatic deductions before the funds hit their bank accounts, they can adjust personal budgets whilst knowing a savings pot exists they can tap into when needed, making it far easier to start saving.

Every month, your team could have money going into savings accounts, putting aside a little extra that grows with dividends, from our Credit Union partners. At the same time, if any of your team need to borrow from a credit union, the interest they pay goes back into the pot that pays out dividends to themselves and everyone else with a savings account.

Similar to automatic enrolment, except this is a voluntary scheme and one that employers don’t need to make contributions towards. Staff control their savings, including withdrawals anytime they need.

Not only will employees gradually build up savings, but for employers, you can rest easy knowing:

  • Workplace stress levels would reduce. Money is one of the main reasons behind absenteeism, stress-related illnesses, poor engagement at work and staff looking for new jobs.
  • Mental health at work will improve. Knowing that staff have savings, money in the bank will reduce the impact of stress, making your team more engaged, focused and able to hit targets.
  • As a workplace benefit, savings accounts are one of the most effective, practical, financial benefits you can offer that doesn’t cost the company money. Now is the perfect time to introduce workplace savings accounts as an employee benefit.

As an employer, you can do something about these issues (whilst also ensuring your staff are more productive and engaged) – thanks to FairQuid Credit Union savings accounts. Best of all, these won’t cost your business a penny. Find out more today.

Working But Checked Out: Why Absenteeism Does Less Damage

Businesses struggle when staff are present but really should be at home. Staff also make more mistakes and potentially endanger themselves and others, including customers. “Presenteeism” is when staff are present, but mentally – or physically, due to ill health, stress or exhaustion – are checked out.

Low efficiency is one of the prime reasons behind the UK economy encountering slower rates of growth and development, contrasted with other G8 nations. Presenteeism is one of the causes for this, as indicated by Virgin Pulse Global Challenge, benchmarked against the 2015 World Health Organization ‘Wellbeing and Workplace Performance’ Questionnaire (WHO-HPQ).

On average, employees underperform for at least 10 days every year – about 6 hours every month, as a result of poor health, tiredness and stress. Assuming you employ hundred staff (25 and over, 7.5 hours per day), at the National Living Wage rate – £7.50 per hour – over the course of one year, this lost productivity would cost your business £56,250.00. Stress and presenteeism cost everyone money.

How do we fix this problem?

Focusing on “workplace culture” usually means throwing “perks” at your employees, such as the option to wear more casual clothes, free breakfast, free food, and other inexpensive “benefits.” These might be appealing in the short run , but research suggests that employees focus more on their stipend and other cash-equivalent benefits, such as car allowance and bonuses.

Most people work for a paycheque. It stands to reason that money matters more than intangible and inexpensive “perks”, and money is one of the main causes of workplace stress and therefore, presenteeism. Worrying about money also contributes to staff taking time off due to poor health, which means some of the median cost of absenteeism – £455 per employee, per year – is a result of personal money worries.

How to Solve Presenteeism?

If perks aren’t the answer, what is?

Employees need to know that you have a solution if they are worried about money. Not every employer can raise salaries quickly, or give out loans, or directly step in when staff are struggling. Nor is it your role as an employer to do that. Not every practical financial workplace benefit needs to come from your HR budget.

Providing practical support, such as employee benefit credit union accounts, is far cheaper – free for businesses, in the case of FairQuid – than watching staff struggle, lowering productivity and even jumping ship. Both stress-based absenteeism and presenteeism are preventable.

As an employer, you can do something about these issues (whilst also ensuring your staff are more productive and engaged) – thanks to FairQuid Credit Union financial wellbeing solutions. Best of all, these won’t cost your business a penny. Find out more today.


High Rents Negatively Impacting Recruitment and Retention

Living in London is always going to cost more than anywhere else in the country. Capital cities attract more people, more opportunities and, therefore, are more expensive places to live, travel around and enjoy.

But in the last decade, many people are starting to question whether the cost of living in big cities, is simply too high?

London is Europe’s largest metropolis, responsible for 22% of the British economy, with employees in and around the capital paid 29% more than the rest of the country. And yet, the cost of renting and buying a house is prohibitively expensive compared to anywhere else in the UK. Although other large cities, such as Liverpool and Manchester, are rapidly creeping up in price too, partly in response to the rising costs of living in London as people move away to previously cheaper areas.

Mind the Gap

According to Zoopla, the average cost of renting a one bed flat is £1,690 a month, with rent absorbing at least 52% of pre-tax earnings. Other cities, such as Liverpool and Manchester are also more expensive than the rest of the country, with rent higher in areas near major commuter routes, such as Merseyrail in Liverpool. Manchester – which some are now calling the ‘London of the North’ is witnessing London-style price rises for property, with the city experiencing a 20% increase in recent years.

These high costs are even worse for younger employees and graduates, often forced to live in cheaper accommodation, sharing with several others; with them at risk of falling prey to slum landlords and those willing to exploit desperation. Some landlords charge around £500 for beds in kitchens, living rooms, even cupboards and sheds.

House prices are also a lot cheaper, with the gap between London and the rest of the country at £300,000, according to recent figures. In 20 years, property prices have gone up 450% – on average – with Westminster and Hackney increasing around 700% since 1996. It is no surprise that there are now more renters than owner occupiers in the capital.

How High Rental & House Prices Are Impacting Employers

According to employer data from Grant Thornton, the accountant, seven of ten are worried about the cost of rent and housing preventing them from attracting the talent they need. People will always come to big cities for opportunities and advance their career, but if the cost of living is excessive, graduates and younger staff – and anyone without money in the family or substantial savings – may look elsewhere.

Some companies, including KPMG and Deloitte – both big four accounting firms – are now providing accommodation for graduate employees.

Deloitte provides a campus atmosphere, with room prices between £180 and £220, after-work activities organised and travel is only 30 minutes to the office. Far better than staff commuting from outside London, taking multiple trains or buses, or paying £700 for a living in a shed someone’s garden. KPMG makes introductions to private banks, making mortgages far more affordable with lower rates.

Unfortunately, not all organisations can afford to subsidise accommodation or make introductions to private banks to guarantee favourable rates. Even when staff are paid well, saving for a deposit and one or more months rent in advance is expensive. When rents are higher, so are the other associated costs. Buying is even more expensive and, therefore, unrealistic. Staff living in cold and uncomfortable accommodation might stay in the office longer if only to stay warm, which negatively impacts productivity.

One way to support staff in large cities, if you don’t have the resources of a big four firm, is to offer employee benefit loans. It won’t cost you anything, but through credit unions, your team can access loans that would make a deposit more affordable. Make city living more affordable for your staff. Our employee benefit loans and savings accounts, provided by ethical credit unions, are the answer. Find out more.

Living Wage & Downsizing: Fears That Keep Employees Awake At Night

In some sectors – retail, hospitality, admin and support (customer service roles) – employees often live with a fear they aren’t as valuable as more skilled workers. Changes, such as the National Living Wage – now at £7.50 for those over 25 – can cause stress and uncertainty.

As much as a pay rise is welcomed, there is always a justifiable fear that companies will need to reduce staff levels to pay more to those they can afford.

The John Lewis Partnership (JLP), owners of the upmarket supermarket chain, Waitrose, and department store, John Lewis, was one of the first companies to report a 17.4% pre-tax drop in profits as a result of a higher wage bill. The Telegraph reported that this wage bill could lead to them “employ[ing] fewer staff over time.”

The Real Risks of Downsizing

National Living Wage requirements mean that it cost JLP an extra £3 million in wages. It could cost more in the next tax year (2017-18), with the government aiming for National Living Wage to hit £9 for those over 25 in 2020.

Other retailers, pub and restaurant chains, coffee shops and hospitality groups also face rising wage costs, which are forcing some to reconsider how many staff they employ. “The British Retail Consortium has estimated that the additional cost to retailers will be between 1-3 billion pounds annually by 2020”, according to a Reuters report on this issue.

Analysts expect certain retailers, including Next, Sports Direct and Poundland – all subject to higher margin pressures than competitors – “could be hit particularly hard.” Store closures are expected, especially with 60% of retail leases coming up for renewal in the next five years. More customers are buying online, which could encourage retailers to downsize store footprints across the country.

Argos (now owned by Sainsbury’s), Debenhams and Tesco are also contemplating downsizing, partly in response to higher wage bills and other costs, which inevitably will result in some staff – potentially thousands – losing their jobs over the next few years.

The hospitality sector is set to experience the largest National Living-induced wage bill increase, of 3.4%. Companies with low prices and low margins will suffer the most, which includes JD Wetherspoon, Costa (and other Whitbread PLC brands), and other pub groups, including Mitchells & Butler, Adnams and Punch Taverns. Wetherspoon’s is expected to reduce earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) 38%, as a consequence of wages rising 10% across the chain.

Good news for employees that receive higher paychecks. Bad news for those companies can no longer afford to employ.

What Can Businesses Do?

Assuming you are affected in some way – that you also need to pay staff more since National Living Wage was implemented – you will probably already know how much more higher wages are going to cost your business. Hopefully, you can absorb these extra costs over the next few years without reducing headcount.

Sustainable growth is the only long-term way to ensure you can employ everyone and pay competitive wages that ensure you can recruit the best talent for your business. Periodically review business operations, to make sure everyone is working in a role that generates maximum value.

When employees are worried about losing their jobs, they look elsewhere, and top performers can jump ship more easily. They have skills your competitors want and need. Consequently, companies are left with mid-level and poor performers, thereby dragging down performance and productivity, or forcing managers to let them go and start hiring again for people capable of hitting KPIs. No one comes out a winner in this scenario. Hiring new staff costs more money than reassuring those who were performing well, but decided to leave as a result of a fear of downsizing.

Providing reassurance in the form of a positive action, such as employee benefit loans and savings accounts, is far cheaper – free for businesses, in the case of FairQuid – than watching your best staff leave and trying to replace them.

With heightened fears of redundancies across sectors where people aren’t paid high salaries, carrying debts around and not having any savings only makes these stresses worse. As an employer, you can do something about these issues (whilst also ensuring your staff are more productive and engaged) – thanks to employee benefit loans. Best of all, these won’t cost your business a penny. Find out more today.


National Minimum & Living Wages: