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The Job Support Scheme: How to support your employees with growing financial pressures

Organisations have difficult decisions to make as the furlough period comes to an end and the new Job Support Scheme kick starts. Raising financial pressures among impacted employees require HR professionals to think very carefully about how else they can support their people.

6th Oct 2020
WorkLife by OpenMoney
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Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak unveiled his new Job Support Scheme on Friday 25th September, in line with the Government’s plans to safeguard ‘viable’ jobs that could come under threat as we move through the crisis. 

Replacing furlough when it wraps up at the end of October, struggling firms will have the option to minimise overheads by reducing an employees’ hours by up to two thirds. Both they and the Government will then each chip in to top up an employee’s lost pay. 

The announcement was met with a collective sigh of relief by firms who have been unsure how they will stay afloat once furlough comes to an end. But while any measure to protect jobs is a good thing, many will now find themselves having to undertake careful maths as they seek to balance financial and operational considerations.

This is on top of a need to support employees who – having already taken a financial hit through furlough – may face another partial loss in pay. With the changes needed to operate under tightened restrictions further hiking the pressure for workers, firms using the scheme will need to think very carefully about how they will help people through this challenging period of recovery and return to work.

Understanding what people are going through will be essential to ensuring you can support them in the best way, whilst being sure that any budget or resource is being directed to where it’s needed the most. 

Reimagining your employee benefits offering

Beyond the support the government is providing, companies should re-evaluate the role that employee benefits can now play in supporting their employees, shifting the focus from ‘perks’, such as discounted gym memberships, to vital help workers will need to get them through this difficult period.

We know from our own Small Business Monitor research that both employers and employees value workplace services that help with financial wellbeing and mental health issues. (These statistics form part of WorkLife’s Small Business Monitor, which is based on research carried out by 3Gem among 750 senior financial and HR decision makers in UK SME companies with 5 - 250 employees.)

Financial wellbeing benefits such as discounts on weekly shopping will be a huge help for someone who is facing up to a 23% loss in pay. Pointing people to Government resources like MAPS or – even better if your firm offers it – benefits like free financial advice will go that bit further to easing some of the stresses your employees might be facing. 

As we move through the pandemic and beyond, workers are going to remember how they were supported at the time they needed it most.

From a mental wellbeing point of view, workers returning from furlough are going to be worrying about their commute, safety in the workplace and whether they will have a job at all come April. 

The use of wellbeing applications – often designed by NHS practitioners and which provide practical guidance on techniques to manage areas such as stress and sleep improvement – can be an effective and cost-efficient means of helping employees handle concerns around their mental health. 

Don’t forget to communicate

Whatever support your business has, issue regular communications to remind people of what’s there. If you can, it’s worth taking the time to talk to each individual to assess their needs. Understanding what people are going through will be essential to ensuring you can support them in the best way, whilst being sure that any budget or resource is being directed to where it’s needed the most. 

Where one-to-ones aren’t feasible, there must be a mechanism whereby employees can 

seek confidential help if they need it. Be it through an Employee Assistance Programme or a mental health first aider, you need to create a way for your workers to have open and honest conversations about any worries they might be facing. 

As we move through the pandemic and beyond, workers are going to remember how they were supported at the time they needed it most. It is absolutely key to look at the long-term view when thinking about how to act now, as not only will this have a lasting impact on employee loyalty, but also how a company is seen by others looking to do business with it.

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