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Pandemic pushes employers to focus on financial wellbeing

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Employers believe they are doing a good job at supporting their workers’ retirement savings but recognise they are lacking when it comes to other areas of their financial wellbeing.

This was the finding of a study of 171 UK organisations conducted by Willis Towers Watson between February and March of this year.

According to the company’s Future of Financial Wellbeing study, 76% of employers believe that their employees want them to be more proactive in helping improve their financial standing, while 36% thought the pandemic had had a negative impact on their employees’ finances.

Richard Sweetman, financial wellbeing lead at Willis Towers Watson, said: “Organisations realise employees are currently facing a wider array of financial challenges and are looking to evolve from a focus on helping employees save for retirement, to adopt broader financial wellbeing programmes that provide the help they need.

“Many employers are now accelerating their focus on financial wellbeing in response to COVID-19, and the associated economic impacts.”

Looking beyond retirement

Although 47% of employers acknowledged that their employees face challenges saving for retirement, more than half (61%) were confident their retirement savings provision was sufficient.

However, there was widespread recognition than when it came to helping employees build emergency savings and manage day-to-day costs and debt, there was a lack of support. About half of the employers surveyed said they intended to provide assistance in these areas over the next two years.

“Debt and the ability for employees to make ends meet should be a particularly important area for employers to focus on, with almost a quarter of employees seemingly affected. We know from employee research that when these issues do come up, they have a particularly detrimental impact on mental health and wellbeing,” said Sweetman.

Specifically, employers said they were planning to introduce at least one extra workplace savings option within the next two years. At present general savings or investment accounts, corporate ISAs and Lifetime ISAs are only offered by a small number of employers.

More comprehensive financial education is also on the agenda – online educational resources are already provided by more than half of employers, with a further third likely to introduce these in the next two years.

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