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Supporting the financial wellbeing of council employees in North Somerset

In May 2017, North Somerset Council added a new suite of financial wellbeing products to its employee benefits package. At no risk or cost to the council, they have already delivered an average saving of £1,029 for those who have taken advantage of them.

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Research shows a negative link between employees who are worried about their personal finances and their engagement, productivity and retention at work.

In May 2017, North Somerset Council added a new suite of financial wellbeing products to its employee benefits package. Provided by Salary Finance, the payroll-administered loan, education and savings benefits are encouraging staff to manage their finances better, thereby reducing stress associated with money worries.

At no risk or cost to the council, the Salary Finance benefits were quickly introduced and have already delivered an average saving of £1,029 for those who have taken advantage of them.

The challenge

With the average UK consumer debt currently standing at £3,900 (excluding mortgages) and up 23 per cent since 2013, it's not surprising that 62 per cent of people are worried about their personal debt levels.

Life costs are rising and according to a recent article by the Money Advice Service, nearly 17 million working age people across the UK have less than £100 in savings. Moreover, one in six Brits report to have suffered from stress and anxiety because of money worries.

With wages increases capped at a longstanding one per cent limit across the public sector, recent inflation increases are creating ever more pressure to make ends meet and make take-home pay go further. 

According to data in the article 'Loans Crisis in the Public Sector,' council employees are reported to be in the top 10 professions using high-interest payday loans, with six per cent of council workers estimated to apply annually.

As one of the largest employers in its region, North Somerset Council is responsible for 1,500 directly employed staff, delivering critical frontline services to local residents. With year-on-year reductions in central government funding for public services, the council requires a highly skilled, motivated workforce to deliver the range of responsibilities of a unitary local authority.

To achieve this against a backdrop of austerity, the HR team knew that providing an employee benefits package was one way in which the council could help their employees feel valued and supported. Understanding the key role money play in employee’s health as well as happiness, they wanted it to include financial benefits that would really change people’s lives for the better - both in and outside of the workplace.

The solution

Agilisys, the council’s long term strategic partner, introduced the HR team to Salary Finance: one of the UK’s most socially responsible and fast-growing employee benefits companies. Having already designed a benefits scheme with Salary Finance, Agilisys were encouraging their own staff to borrow sensibly, start saving and plan their money more effectively.

Salary Finance financial wellbeing provider that enables employees to borrow money at a lower interest rate than high street lenders, while helping individuals manage their finances even if they have an unfavourable credit rating. The manageable repayments are deducted directly from payroll, which assists employees with budgeting and affordability. Over an extended period, this can also help to manifest better habits for managing debt, while encouraging saving.

As a client of Salary Finance, Agilisys were already familiar with the on-boarding process: the set-up was quick and easy, with research, design and implementation all accomplished in just a few months.

“Salary Finance was really easy to set up and creates no additional work for my operational payroll team on a monthly basis.” Transactional HR & Payroll Lead, Liberata in partnership with Agilisys.

In May 2017, the council issued a special Financial Wellbeing edition of the weekly magazine, which introduced several tools to help staff manage their money better, provided a spotlight on local partners, such as Citizens Advice, and launched Salary Finance as an employee benefit for all staff.

The impact

Having now helped many employees to secure low cost loans – 90 per cent of which were to consolidate existing high-cost debt – Salary Finance estimates it has saved staff an average saving of £1,029 per employee – a brilliant result!

Although traditionally a taboo subject, it has also been encouraging to see our employees willing to share their experiences to help others learn about the benefit valuable to them:

“I had a really bad interest credit card. I took the SalaryFinance loan out, paid off the credit card and cut it up. I now know I’m going to see this through to the end of its term, pay it off. It doesn’t even factor into my life anymore. It’s helped improve my credit rating and that added toward me getting my mortgage recently.”

Matthew Bartlett Legal Advisor, Agilisys (based at North Somerset Council Town Hall)

At the outset of the project, there were many council officers who thought that the service wouldn't be needed. However, since launch, they have seen that for the staff who have consolidated their debt it has made an enormous difference.

“We understand that money worries can be a cause of great stress. Not only can this have a direct impact on people’s ability to thrive at work and at home, it can also have mental health consequences, which often trigger even worse financial issues. We wanted to recognise that, and for the minority of staff who need a little extra help, a benefit like Salary Finance provides real value.”

Paul Morris, Head of Performance Improvement & Human Resources

How is the new approach being sustained?

Salary Finance is more than just a loan facility. Their deep expertise in financial technology, means they provide a unique level of support to employees all throughout their financial journey. Easily accessible advice is available 24/7 through their financial education portal and is open for all, not just those that have taken out a loan.

Salary Finance takes a different, more inclusive approach to traditional lenders. Responsible lending practices are fundamental to their business model, and they aim to help everyone who applies for a loan. 

In cases where a loan cannot be responsibly extended, Salary Finance help employees with a counter offer: a small loan meant to help them build a better credit score, along with extra coaching on how they can continue to improve it. They also put individuals in serious financial difficulty in touch with debt charities, which can provide personalised advice and facilitate their progression out of debt.

Alongside this assistance, Salary Finance has also arranged in-person education sessions to give all staff the opportunity to improve and have more confidence with their personal finances. Staff engaged very positively with these sessions reporting that they found this extra support very helpful.

Lessons learned

Even when you're a great employer there will always be people who need more help to achieve a work/life balance. Lessons for North Somerset Council are being learned through a program of engagement and review sessions with all employees. 

Recent feedback following a course of lunchtime financial education sessions was positive, and staff really value having the space and information to think through the financial basics. Even those who are good with their money responded positively that they were able to improve and feel better about their finances. 

Adding financial wellbeing to the employment offer and brand also supports recruitment and retention in an increasingly constrained employment market.


Verity Buck, Client Director at Salary Finance

Email: [email protected] 

Tel: 07972 101805

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