How to support employees in debt and maintain productivity

January is a long month for many and money is usually quite tight –  a good time then to discuss money worries and the effect they can have on productivity 

Seeing faces light up when they open that special present at Christmas, or the flash of the engagement ring after a New Year proposal, is heart-warming. But then comes reality!
Back to work blues are only exacerbated by miserable weather and this year’s strikes. But for many, the worst day of all is the day the credit card bill arrives.
The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has given a warning about the high level of debt in UK households. In particular, he said that consumers were borrowing more on their credit cards and other unsecured debt. Figures from the bank this week showed that credit card lending is at a record level – up by £571 million in the last month.
So how does this affect a small business?
Research by the Institute for Employment Studies clearly demonstrates that employees burdened by debt will cost your business dearly.18% of employees questioned admitted to losing sleep due to financial pressure, whilst 8% took time off due to stress. If someone is worrying about money, their decision-making process will be impaired, and their productivity might drop too.
You may feel this is a difficult area to get involved in, but you do not want your employees going to payday loan companies and making the problem worse. However, there are a number of ways in which you can help.
Firstly, make a list of debt advice charities and organisations that offer this service in your area. Citizens Advice said it helped more than 50,000 people with debt problems last year. Two thirds of them were struggling to keep up with repayments on credit and store cards.  They now have a webchat service which can answer questions online.
Stepchange is a national charity dedicated to providing free advice to people in debt. Their telephone number is 0800 138 1111.
Having an in-house Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is an excellent, cost-effective way of supporting staff through a myriad of problems all year around. However, when there is a problem, employees sometimes forget that there is help available and don’t know the contact number.
You can subtley remind them by putting contact details on the bottom of payslips, on notice boards and intranet sites, or any other channels that you use to communicate with your team.
To find out more about EAPs give The HR Dept a ring.

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Ian heads up the HR Dept Edinburgh & the Lothians team. The HR Dept specialises in helping SMEs with everything to with employment, through a local and personal service delivering practical and pragmatic advice and support. With nearly 30 years HR experience, Ian has a wealth of experience in helping businesses to ensure success through their people, be legally compliant and handle tricky people issues. As a business owner himself, Ian understands the challenges that come with running and growing a business. He is known for his ability to explain complex concepts simply and to make learning fun and enjoyable.