How can we support employees through the cost of living crisis?

How can we support employees through the cost of living crisis?

Posted: Tue, 13 Dec 2022 12:11

How can we support employees through the cost of living crisis?

The issue

The 'cost of living crisis' is defined by the Institute for Government as the fall in 'real' disposable income (adjusted for inflation and after taxes and benefits) that the UK has been experiencing since late 2021. With the rise in inflation to a 40 year high, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) projects that we will face the biggest fall in living standards since records began in 1956-57. Food, energy, and housing costs remain on the increase, and it is thought that those on lower incomes have been, and continue to be, more adversely affected (Forbes). Indeed, The Health Foundation reported that food, housing, fuel and power accounted for 37% of the income of the poorest fifth of families. According to the charity Shelter, there are now almost 2.5 million renters who are behind, or struggling, to pay their rent (this is up 45% since April 2022). Furthermore, a recent PwC poll reported that 86% of adults in the UK are concerned about day-to-day living costs. The consequence of this was highlighted in a recent YouGov survey commissioned by the British Psychological Society (BPS) which found that half of those surveyed were experiencing anxiety around paying their bills, and one in five without a previously diagnosed mental health condition reported that money worries were making them feel depressed. Sarb Bajwa, the BPS Chief Executive noted that "as well as the practicalities of being able to heat homes and put food on the table, people are also carrying the mental health load of living under this strain. We are incredibly concerned that many simply will be unable to cope". The link between money and mental health is well-reported (Mind), and with 94% of adults reporting their cost of living to have increased compared with a year ago (ONS), and forecasts from the Bank of England of this crisis lasting well into next year, the majority of people will most certainly be impacted.

Why employee's experience of the cost-of-living crisis matters to organisations?

In November 2021 the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reported that 47% of UK employees had money worries, and that financial distress had important implications for wellbeing and performance. Practical implications of such include employees feeling the need to work more hours, or even take on second jobs (Forbes) – both of which can increase the likelihood of burnout. Pressure in making ends meet may mean that meals are skipped, or the heating left off, leading to malnutrition or risk of respiratory diseases and other illness. The worry of paying bills may lead to stress, anxiety or even depression (The Health Foundation). Supporting workers through this crisis is not only the right thing to do, but important for direct business outcomes such as a the reduction of employee absence and turnover, and for the preservation of engagement and productivity (CBI).

What we are doing about it?

Our research focus for 2023 is 'Understanding How Best To Support Workers With Non-Pay Offers Through The Cost-Of-Living Crisis'. For many organisations, offering pay incentives to support employees is untenable, and hence this project will take an evidence-based approach, gathering data from employees, stakeholders and policy leads to understand how employees can be best supported through non-pay offers during the crisis. By becoming a member of the Research Consortium and participating in our research, you would benefit by receiving a report detailing the non-pay offers that would best support the workers in your context, in addition to contributing to timely and impactful research for all.

The Research Consortium established by Affinity Health at Work is now in its seventeenth year, and is a network of researchers, policy makers and employers who come together to improve the health and wellbeing of employees, and support organisations in their efforts to do so. Our aim is to strengthen the evidence base for work, health and well-being; share evidence, knowledge and best practice; and bring together multi-disciplinary perspectives to prevent ill-health and promote and support health and wellbeing at work. As a member you will also be able to participate in quarterly masterclasses, networking with like-minded professionals and helping to shape, partner on, and participate in our research.

To find out more about our past research projects, as well as the focus for 2023, take a look at our website, or contact us at

Tags: Cost Of Living Crisis, Employees, Inflation, Support, Wellbeing