Inflation continues to wreak havoc on businesses and employees alike and is showing few signs of slowing down, says Alan Price of BrightHR.
As a proud father to two boys, I can think of nothing worse than the fear of not being able to put food on the table.
Working parents, particularly single parents, are struggling to get by, with almost half finding it hard just to pay the bills. A report by the Nuffield Foundation found that 36% of children in families with a child under five in the UK were living in poverty.
Many of the parents I speak to say they are sliding further into debt and don’t know where to turn or what to do, a scary position to be in when you have children to clothe and feed, not to mention lights and heating to keep on.
One look at the statistics reveals the worrying truth; so many families across Britain are facing a financial crisis. Sadly, it’s not just parents who are worried. Children and teens are expressing their fears as well.
And yet, many of the parents I speak to are trying to shield their children from the worries and are reluctant to seek outside help. Why is this?
Is there a cultural stigma around asking for help in times of financial need? Or is it a sense of shame that comes with feeling you can’t provide for your family? My best guess is it’s a combination of these and many other reasons.
A crucial first step is addressing the situation honestly, not just with your partner or spouse, but with your children. From experience, I can tell you that children may not understand everything you say, and they certainly don’t listen to everything you try to tell them, but they absolutely pick up on your mood and your actions.
They can tell if you’re worried and stressed, and this can have a knock-on effect on their mood and behaviour. You don’t need to go into exhaustive detail about why the family is struggling, a simple conversation about why you won’t be getting takeaway pizza or going to your favourite restaurant, why you’re cancelling a TV subscription, putting jumpers on or the importance of turning out the lights when leaving a room will suffice.
Remember that they are still children and don’t thrust all your adult problems onto them but, equally, don’t be afraid to let them know what you’re facing whilst reassuring them that, as a family, you will be alright.
You can even go a step further by giving them a part to play. Not only will this make them more aware of their actions in the short term, but it will also impart valuable financial wisdom that will serve them well in the long run.
With bills going up, now is the perfect time to teach them a bit more about budgeting and life skills, for example, show them how to save their pocket money before spending it or ask them to spend an hour less every night on the Xbox, showing the impact it has on your energy bill.
While that is all well and good, but how can you save up when food bills, energy bills, and gas bills are all spiralling out of control?
It’s not just affordability that could be holding people back from saving. It’s often due to a lack of financial training, or even procrastination. We lead such busy lives that it’s sometimes hard to find the time to simply sit down and set out a budget. Many of us have never done it before so don’t know where to start. This is where financial training can be extremely useful.
A good employer understands that financial wellbeing is a key factor in the productivity, morale, and retention of their workforce.
So, while it can be daunting to ask your employer for help, you’ll find that it is there.
Following the pandemic many businesses found themselves struggling to survive, and with costs rising almost daily – from supply chain to energy bills, to fuel costs – many are simply unable to offer their employees a pay rise, no matter how much they would like to.
But there are other ways in which employers can help support employees during these difficult times.
Most workplaces have Employee Assistance Programme’s (EAP) as part of their benefit package, containing a wealth of support. These can include online courses, workshops, advice lines and other benefits to take advantage of that you might not have even known about. As well as providing financial advice, EAP’s offer a lifeline for many with wellbeing support and counselling available any time of night or day. All at no cost to the employee.
Offering workplace perks can also help employees. Businesses can offer special deals advertising through these platforms, and employees get to save money on every day essentials as well as important purchases.
From little treats such as free cinema tickets, allowing families to have days out that might otherwise have fallen by the wayside, to offering discounts on groceries and clothing, these savings can quickly add up and make a real difference to employees during this difficult time.