A new report today reveals almost seven in ten UK workers (68%) are hiding financially-driven mental health concerns from their employers, due to embarrassment and fear of being reprimanded. This is despite a huge shift in employers putting financial wellbeing programmes in place (93% – up from 51% a year ago), according to the State of Financial Wellbeing: Workplace Report 2022, from financial wellbeing provider Wagestream.
Based on quantitative and qualitative research among 5,000 UK employees and 600 senior HR professionals, along with input from leading money charities and the UK Government’s Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), the report reveals an alarming disconnect between the support employees need and what their employers plan to provide.
HR professionals estimated, for instance, that just 2% of their employees worried on a daily basis about money. The reality was that a quarter (24%) worry daily about it – a rise of 8% over the last year – while the majority (57%) are consumed with money worries at least once a week.
Meanwhile, 91% of employers feel they provide an environment supportive of financial health – yet only 52% of their people actually feel supported with their money at work. This perception gap may, however, be partially explained by poor communications surrounding awareness of the support offered in the workplace: almost a third (28%) of workplaces say they provide salary advances, for example, while only 9% of employees say their employer provides them.
Jamie Lawrence, Insights Director at Wagestream and author of the report, said: “This year’s report finds that we are entering a new phase of financial wellbeing at work: almost every employer has now taken its first step on financial wellbeing, but many are failing to achieve true impact. It’s fantastic to see employers being so proactive in plugging the financial inclusion gap – now we hope they’ll take it a step further by building out financial wellbeing programmes that address the bespoke needs of their own workforces and the most urgent problems many face – like savings.”
The report recommends employers should “home in on savings barriers”, with MaPS estimating that 11.5 million people in the UK have under £100 in savings. UK workers cited it as the number one issue they’d like more support on, with 50% asking for help – yet, just 18% of employers plan to put support on savings in place.
Peter Tutton, Head of Policy at StepChange, explains: “We know that people understand the importance of saving for a rainy day and do put money aside for future expenses and emergency costs; but it can be hard to build an effective short-term saving pot. For instance, we asked people 15 months after seeking debt advice whether they had enough savings to replace a fridge or washing machine. Only 9% said that they had been able to save enough to do this.”
The report also appeals for employers to actively encourage more open conversations about money – building on recent progress in how mental wellbeing is managed at work. Overall, money was the number one worry among the workforce, cited by 50% of UK workers – followed by mental wellbeing (34%). Combined, financial and mental wellbeing were cited by almost three quarters (74%) of UK employees as their biggest worries of 2022. But 41% did mention negative factors around their employment relationship, such as lack of trust or fear of discrimination, as contributing factors to their decision to keep quiet.
Sam Westwood – Head of People at The White Company, adds: “ There’s a perfect storm of factors contributing right now to financial stress for UK employees. Not only is empowering employees to take control of their financial wellbeing the right thing to do, but there is considerable business benefit that comes from happier, healthier employees.”
Sarah Porretta – Propositions, Insights and External Engagement Director, Money and Pensions Service:
“Supporting workers, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances, to create financial stability for themselves has never been more important given the mounting pressures on household and life expenses. It’s really encouraging to see that the vast majority of workers would welcome support – and it’s now crucial that employers recognise this and introduce new measures to promote long-term financial wellbeing.”
Cliff Lee – Head of Wellbeing, Retail Trust:
“Many people are struggling with their financial situation as a result of Covid-19. We have seen an increase in financial worries due to inflation rises, the cost of living going up, rising mortgage rates and eviction restrictions being lifted. All of which means in 2022 finances continue to play an outsized role in employees’ mental health.”