Helping your staff through the cost of living crisis

Ethical employers should recognise their responsibilities during times of financial hardship, says Sue Tumelty

Helping your staff through the cost of living crisis

No one will escape the cost of living crisis, its impact on all of our monthly outgoings and the implications for our businesses.

Many business owners may be in a fortunate position that they are able to absorb the cost of higher energy bills, price hikes at the fuel pumps and rising food prices, without having to worry about immediate sacrifices on their daily living. 

At times like these it is our employees that we need to consider. As ever, financial crises affect the worst off disproportionately.

For franchisors and franchisees, now is a vital time to reinforce relationships with your employees, to reassure them that you are there to support them at this difficult time. And while you may not be match pay rises in line with inflation, there are other steps you can take to ensure that you help your staff through this period.

Background to the crisis

This cost of living crisis has been a long time coming – a combination of supply chain issues during Covid, spiking fossil fuel prices as demand outstrips supply, and the awful invasion of Ukraine by Russia adding a further complication into the global economic system.

Rising fuel prices of course have a knock-on effect throughout the economy, affecting anything that is grown, harvested, transported, made from plastics… everything, really. Nor will it be going away soon, with inflation expected to remain high for many months yet, potentially a year or two.

So the important thing for employers across the board is to communicate with their staff, emphasise that this is a challenging situation for everyone and that you understand their circumstances. Businesses and their staff can work through this time and come out of the tunnel together, further down the line.

Practical steps for employers to take

Ethical employers should recognise their responsibilities during times of financial hardship, says Sue Tumelty.

I would certainly advise businesses to increase staff wages wherever possible, not only in solidarity with their employees’ predicament but also to help with retention.

But as employment culture changes, with more flexibility in terms of hours and location for working (one thing the pandemic has been good for), then employers now have many other means of supporting their staff.

One option is to bear in mind each staff member’s specific circumstances and provide assistance accordingly. Some, for example, may be concerned about home energy bills and would be grateful for extra time in the office. Others may be feeling the squeeze of petrol prices and therefore be thankful for more remote working.

My regular readers will know the importance I attach to good communication in a business – a genuine two-way relationship where employee input is valued and considered. In this instance, such an approach can pay dividends not only for the employee’s ability to survive this crisis but also in their long-term appreciation of you as a caring employer.

There are other ways to help, too. You can take advantage of Government-backed schemes which alleviate some of the costs of living, such as salary sacrifice schemes like the cycle to work programme which is especially useful when fuel costs are high, and during the summer. Your HR department should be alerting staff to all the schemes which your business offers.

More widely, you should recognise that many of your staff will be unaware of the many established ways of supporting them with their financial, physical and emotional wellbeing. A comprehensive Employee Assistance Programme will offer mortgage and debt management advice, as well as non-financial support.

To summarise, a good employer should recognise the role they play not just in offering work to staff members but also to support them during difficult times. Manage your people properly in a crisis, and you would hope they will be grateful to you for many years to come.

Sue Tumelty
Sue Tumelty