Significant disparities in how employers and employees view financial wellbeing support are fostering a culture of silence around money concerns within workplaces, according to a recent study.
New research has revealed that nearly 68 percent of employees who feel unsupported in terms of financial wellbeing are hesitant to discuss their monetary worries with their employers. In contrast, this reluctance drops to 36 percent for those who receive financial wellbeing support.
The implications of this are particularly noteworthy, considering that nearly 29 percent of employees in the UK report receiving no financial wellbeing assistance from their employers. Strikingly, in contrast, all 660 senior HR professionals surveyed assert that their respective organisations offer support.
The study, titled “Dynamics in Financial Wellbeing: The Stigma Report 2023,” conducted by the financial wellbeing platform Bippit, also engaged 5000 UK employees to explore strategies for addressing money-related stigma in the workplace.
Further, the research brings to light a clear divergence in perception between HR departments and employees. While 84 percent of HR professionals claim to foster an environment conducive to sharing financial concerns, only 52 percent of employees concur with this assessment.
Additionally, even though 84 percent of senior HR professionals stated that their organisations had inquired about employees’ financial situations within the past three years, just 41 percent of employees agreed.
Financial wellbeing support
“Encouraging transparent discussions about finances is a crucial business endeavour, enabling employees to access appropriate financial wellbeing support when needed. Without this, organisations are left with unaddressed financial stress issues,” noted Sam Lathey, CEO of Bippit. “Employers must not only assess the scope of their financial assistance but also consider how their communication strategies influence employees’ perceptions of this support. Trust and the willingness to communicate are evidently shaped by employees’ beliefs about their organisation’s commitment to financial wellbeing.”
In total, less than half (48%) of employees are comfortable discussing financial matters openly. Surprisingly, a somewhat concerning 52 percent of employees would rather discuss their mental health concerns with their employers.
The challenge is particularly pronounced among both the youngest and oldest age groups. A striking 74 percent of individuals over the age of 55 and 70 percent of those between 18 and 25 indicated a reluctance to confide in their employers, compared to 58 percent across all age brackets. Notably, twice as many women (50%) as men (21%) expressed discomfort in sharing money concerns in the workplace.
How can employers build stronger relationships with their employees?
Michael Royce, Senior Policy Manager at the Money and Pensions Service, commented: “Conversations about money aid in making sound financial choices, building stronger relationships, and alleviating the burdens associated with financial problems. This report contributes valuable insights into understanding the need for employer support in such discussions. We eagerly anticipate collaborating with Bippit and other stakeholders during our annual Talk Money Week to enhance financial wellbeing in workplaces.”
Andrew Berrie, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at the mental health charity Mind, remarked: “Bippit’s research demonstrates that while the stigma around financial worries is gradually diminishing, the disclosure of such concerns remains low. Consequently, numerous employees are likely grappling with stress and anxiety. Gaining control over personal finances is a pivotal step toward addressing these feelings. Educational initiatives focusing on budgeting, pensions, and retirement planning can provide invaluable support.”
Ben Harrison, Director of the Work Foundation at Lancaster University, concluded: “Work Foundation research indicates that stigma tied to financial wellbeing often discourages employees from seeking comprehensive information or support from their employers. Overcoming this obstacle necessitates employers leading a cultural transformation within their organisations. This involves fostering open dialogues on financial wellbeing, proactively highlighting available resources related to financial assistance, debt management, and welfare benefits, as well as offering peer-to-peer interactions and anonymous engagement.”
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.