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How to support low income employees

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By Yvonne Hignell, Care & Support Services Director

Financial worries are the most common reason why people call Ben – 49% of the calls we received during July-September 2016 were from people concerned about finances and many of their concerns are related to low income.

Supporting those on low income needs to go further than just increasing pay. Employers who take wider action and make some simple but considered changes can create a more stable workforce. Improving staff retention and engagement – often low among workforces on lower incomes – can improve productivity and business efficiency. Plus, you can help your staff and colleagues to better support their families and reduce work-related stress.

Job security

In 2015 The Office of National Statistics found that almost half of large employers use ‘zero-hour contracts’ – contracts that don’t guarantee hours. This places stress on workers who can’t guarantee an income to support their family.

The Beyond Pay inquiry by Business in the Community identified that employers could help improve job security by monitoring their use of zero-hour contracts and ensuring that they’re only used when demand genuinely fluctuates. Regular workers may then be moved to minimum hours contracts, which offer more certainty.

Progression

Another way of improving retention is to offer clear career progression. A Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on low income workers suggests creating clear, intermediate steps between each level of work to boost confidence and reduce fear of increased responsibility.

Providing opportunities for training can also have a positive effect on staff turnover and enable staff to become more productive in their current roles. Those on low pay are twice as likely to progress if given training, according to research by Social Market Foundation.

However, it’s important to consult with employees when designing training or job progression schemes, in order to gauge their requirements, as well as increase engagement.

Communication

Ensure that your communications channels are accessible by your entire workforce. As many lower paid jobs are not desk-based, you should find other ways to communicate than via email. For example, you could use staff notice boards to display job vacancies, post updates with payslips and announcements or set up a private Facebook group that people can access on their mobiles.

Regular face-to-face meetings with line managers are also useful for engaging with staff who have low literacy levels or a limited understanding of English. Line managers who build up a relationship with their staff are also able to provide support if they are struggling.

It’s important to give advanced notice of any changes you make to the business, especially shift patterns, and then clearly communicate why these alterations have been made.

Additionally, if you do offer staff benefits, ensure that information about them reaches the relevant people. Staff who feel secure and supported are more likely to engage and less likely to look for a role elsewhere.

Pay

Consider offering the actual Living Wage, which is calculated based on what people need to live. This currently stands at £9.75/hour in London and £8.45/hour in the rest of the UK. You can find out more about this scheme and its benefits for employers on the Living Wage Foundation’s website.

The organisation has also worked alongside companies such as EE, IKEA and Brewdog to put together a ‘Good Jobs in Retail’ toolkit on how to provide maximum value to both customers and staff.

Additionally, you can review whether or not employees’ payments reflect all the hours they work. This includes breaks and time spent cashing up or clearing away. If there are staff benefits with low take-up, you could also consider absorbing these into salaries.

Support

Happy, healthy employees are more able to focus on their work. Therefore, they will be more engaged and increase your productivity. Having support in place to help them if life gets tough is incredibly important.

This is where Ben comes in. We’re here to support the people who work in the automotive industry and their families for life. You can find out more about our free support services in the companies area of our website.

To find out more about what we can offer your business, contact supporterrelations@ben.org.uk.

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