A 2019 government report showed that 1.3 million adults in the UK are ‘unbanked’.
At the same time, it is estimated that one in four adults will experience financial exclusion in their lifetime, according to We Are Digital.
What do these worrying numbers mean for HR and recruitment professionals?
For employees and job candidates, being financially excluded can result in being unable to receive salary payments. Without a bank account for wages to be paid into, candidates are unable to complete simple but fundamental tasks, such as paying bills or rent.
The importance of good employee mental health and wellbeing has increasingly been acknowledged by HR teams, becoming part of strategic business aims and organisational resilience. Financial inclusion should also become part of a wider wellbeing strategy for every business.
Financial wellbeing isn’t just a good PR stunt
A CIPD survey recently showed that only half of UK employers have a financial wellbeing strategy in place, and yet 77% of employees report that money worries impact their work. The mental health consequences of financial concerns are not an employee’s burden alone: Deloitte estimates that poor mental health can cost UK businesses up to £45 billion per year in absenteeism and staff turnover.
Financial inclusion is not just good for PR – although there is something to be said of positive employer branding and culture – but is inherently good for business.
Financial inclusion should also become part of a wider wellbeing strategy for every business.
Paypal is a great example of an employer taking responsibility for the financial wellbeing of their staff. In 2019, the payments business introduced a new programme designed to boost employee financial wellness; raising wages for the lower-paid employees and providing personalised financial coaching to all staff. A staff survey following the implementation of the programme showed that Paypal employees were four times more engaged, and three times less likely to leave the company.
Are HR teams losing money on unbanked overseas candidates?
Overseas candidates are a highly skilled and significant pool to tap into – 715,000 people migrated to the UK in 2019-20 alone – and thus should not be overlooked in terms of financial inclusivity.
But when arriving in the UK, people coming from abroad face a significant challenge. The need for a UK residential history, and the wait for a proof of address, can lock many overseas workers out of access to traditional banking services – in some cases, it might take months for them to open a bank account. The lengthy process creates friction for both candidates and employers, who are losing money and resources whilst waiting for newly hired staff to be able to start working.
The Migration Observatory has also shown that non-UK nationals are more likely to have temporary, zero hour contracts, and more likely to engage in shift work, than UK nationals. The migrant pay gap, and a lack of access to proper banking solutions, leaves overseas workers vulnerable to poor working practices and labour exploitation.
Financial inclusivity is key to attracting overseas candidates
Financial inclusivity has become more important than ever, as the UK job market has seen a decline in interest from overseas workers, especially in the lower paid sectors of hospitality, social care, and warehousing. HR teams and recruitment agencies will need to work even harder to attract and retain overseas staff in order to offset the current recruitment challenges posed by the pandemic and Brexit.
Ensuring the financial wellbeing of staff coming from abroad to work in the UK will play a key part in gaining interest from overseas workers. At the same time, if HR teams are not able to onboard overseas candidates quickly, they risk losing money with every week or month that goes by.
So how can HR and recruitment professionals foster financial inclusivity in their organisations?
Plug the knowledge gap
Money tends to be something that people in Britain prefer not to discuss, but poor financial literacy leaves people vulnerable and can affect their overall wellbeing.
A lack of financial understanding can also apply to overseas candidates. Romania and Bulgaria are amongst some of the countries most reliant on cash, and so employees coming from these areas may still be more familiar with getting paid – and making payments – in cash, rather than to and from a bank account.
It’s up to HR, recruitment and payroll teams to come together to support both domestic and international candidates with their broader financial education and wellbeing.
Ensuring the financial wellbeing of staff coming from abroad to work in the UK will play a key part in gaining interest from overseas workers.
Partner with key organisations
A small but busy HR team may not be able to provide the level of support that they would like to their incoming job candidates and existing employees – and so partnerships with key organisations will help to fill that all important gap.
For those professionals working in industries that rely on large numbers of labourers – such as construction, food, manufacturing, warehousing and the supply chain – the Association of Labour Providers can offer advice around responsible recruitment and good practice. Just Good Work also helps businesses to develop an informed and engaged workforce from overseas, and empowers migrant workers with knowledge about working in the UK; whilst the Emerging Payments Association inclusion project can provide vital resources on the issues of financial exclusion and the poverty premium.
Building a sense of community for your employees can not only improve their overall health and wellbeing, but can assure safety, protect those who may be vulnerable, and help prevent exploitation. For the overseas workers coming to the UK from abroad, a sense of community and connection is also crucial and can be an invaluable tool for information sharing and education around financial issues.
HR teams might find some inspiration from the likes of VibeTeaching – a recruiting agency for New Zealand and Australian teachers who would like to work in the UK. The agency provides an all-important sense of community for its new arrivals, with events, activities and opportunities for employees to travel together.
HR can also sign post their new employees towards the vibrant Facebook groups and online communities that specifically exist for non-UK workers – offering new arrivals a vital support network that might help them to navigate the quirks of life in the UK.
Employee happiness and loyalty, productivity, attracting domestic and overseas talent, and employer branding – the list of business benefits is long when it comes to employers taking responsibility for the financial wellbeing of their employees. And though the steps we’ve discussed may seem small, if every HR team in Britain were engaged with working to tackle the issue of financial exclusion, we together could make a big difference to the lives of so many.