Cost of living crisis: Are you missing out on your employer’s help? | Employee benefits

Cost of living crisis: Are you missing out on your employer’s help? | Employee benefits

Many employers are stepping in to help workers with the rising cost of living, with some firms offering one-time bonuses or other assistance ranging from enhanced employee discounts to free food.

Some large companies give lower-paid workers extra money to help combat the impact rising inflation and larger accounts.

Meanwhile, there may be employee benefits you haven’t taken advantage of that could help you balance your budget even if your boss isn’t giving you a raise.

For example, many firms offer benefits such as discounts at local businesses, bike-to-work schemes, season ticket loans, free eye tests and the option to sell unused holiday.

Jonathan Watts-Lay, Director of Wealth at Work, a The financial wellbeing and retirement specialist says if you’re having trouble with your finances, talk to your employer to find out what help is available. “Even if they don’t offer anything right now, sharing the challenges you’re facing can encourage them to offer support.”

Equally, your union – if you’re a member – will often have deals and other help available, so take the time to see what’s on offer.

Paying living expenses

British five, ten, twenty and fifty pound notes with one pound coins.
Wealth at Work says if you’re struggling with your finances, talk to your employer. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Major employers, including HSBC, John Lewis and Virgin Media O2, are giving some workers extra payments to help with rising cost of living.

Virgin Media O2 announced earlier this month that it would pay out a total of £1,400 to employees earning £35,000 and under.

The first payment of £400 will be paid next month, followed by another £400 in January 2023, and then six payments of £100 a month until July 2023.

Meanwhile, John Lewis recently revealed that full-time staff will receive a one-off living expenses payment of £500 – with part-time staff entitled to a lower amount.

Banks including HSBC and Nationwide give their lowest paid staff bonuses of £1,500 and £1,200 respectively.

The salary increases

Other firms say they are giving staff pay rises to combat the rising cost of living rather than handing out lump sum payments. However, there will often be a variety of reasons why businesses increase wages – for example, in sectors such as hospitality and retail, staff shortages and firms competing to recruit and retain workers are likely to be the biggest factors behind some of the recent wage increases.

In addition, some companies target wage increases towards lower paid staff.

English breakfast: fried egg, bacon, beans and toast on a plate close-up.  horizontal top view
Some companies offer free food to workers during shifts.
Photo: Sergii Koval/Alamy

Free food and help with bills

Some employers provide free meals and snacks to help workers with crisis living expenses, while others are struggling to support staff struggling to pay the bills.

For example, John Lewis and Waitrose will offer free food over the winter, and are also doubling their financial aid fund to help workers with bills.

Sainsbury’s says it will give workers access to “essential food items” during their shifts from this month.

Hybrid operation and costs

Allowing staff to work flexibly between home and the office allows people to weigh up the cost-effectiveness of, for example, saving money on the commute versus using more gas and electricity while working from home.

You should also make sure you are reimbursing any expenses you are entitled to. For example, your employer may agree to pay a certain amount for fuel costs or to cover food and drink if you need to be away from the office.


Check to see if your company offers discounts as part of your benefits package.

For example, they may have arrangements with local shops or other businesses such as salons and gyms to give employees money.

Some supermarkets are increasing employee discounts as part of their package to help workers cope with the cost of living crisis.

As well as the staff pay rise, Tesco has increased its employee Clubcard discount from £1,000 to £1,500, meaning workers can get 10% off – jumping to 15% off every payday weekend.

Asda has removed the 12-week qualifying period for workers to access the 10% staff discount. The store says there is no limit to how much employees can spend using their card, saving workers around £400 a year.

Meanwhile, Iceland increased its employee offer from 10% to 15%.

Sell ​​back vacation

Some companies give workers the option to buy or sell vacation days at a certain point in the year.

If you don’t think you need all of your vacation pay, you may be able to sell it back to the company and get paid instead.

Debt support

You may be able to get help with your debts through your workplace. Many companies offer financial education seminars on debt management to help employees understand how to manage and pay off debt and what help is available, Wealth at Work says. Some also offer payday loan consolidation to help those who need help paying off their debts.

Contact your HR department to see what your company has to offer. If there is no specific debt support service, they should refer you to the appropriate support. For example, a charity such as StepChange or government MoneyHelper service.

Salary sacrifice etc

Someone rides on a bike lane next to heavy traffic in Birmingham.
Does your company offer a cycle-to-job scheme? Photo: Jacob King/PA

Many companies offer ‘salary sacrifice’ options, such as bike-to-work schemes or things like season ticket credits.

With salary sacrifice, payments for a bike, car or anything else are taken out of your gross income.

These schemes will often allow you to spread the cost of expensive items over several months and can help you manage your money.

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