Cost of living crisis: why businesses should help their workers

Mark Griffiths
Head of Social Impact

The word ‘unprecedented’ is the order of the day. The latest inflation data in the UK is the highest since 1991. There have been huge rises in the costs of electricity (53.5%) and gas (95.5%) while petrol prices are the highest recorded - ever. 

At the same time, overall job vacancies in the UK have also risen to their largest number ever - 1.3 million - with half of industry sectors showing record highs. 

This combination - on the one hand, severe pressures on household finances  and, on the other, a very tight labour market - has led to what you’d expect: criminal barristers are on strike, doctors are warning of industrial action and Britain’s railways have ground to a halt.

Realistically, policy makers' ability to respond is limited. To give one example, when the UK Chancellor announced financial support to households to alleviate the costs of rising fuel, the Financial Times described this as passing the hot inflationary potato into the lap of the Bank Of England. The latter  would now need to raise interest rates higher than they otherwise would - so adding to the household costs that the original policy was supposed to mitigate.

Nonetheless, as former Chancellor Lord Norman Lamont has argued, even if you can’t insulate everyone from the full effects of these unprecedented times there is a moral duty to maximize support for those least able to withstand them

Many of the people who will fall into this category will be working in the platform economy - that is, finding work through apps such as Uber or Deliveroo. 

For instance, we have evidenced and described the triple risk that many platform workers face: more exposed to physical risks, with fewer protections such as accident pay, and not enough savings to safely get them through everyday financial events such as having a new child, or getting sick. 

We collected this data last year, and it is overwhelmingly likely that the already fragile resilience of many flexible workers has only deteriorated since; for example, lower income households spend proportionately more of their money on everyday essentials such as heating, fuel and food. Three categories of spend that have been most affected by inflationary pressures.

Alongside robust governmental support aimed at those most in need, there are practical steps that businesses can take to help their workers outside of the obvious route of pay rises. For example, by taking steps to strengthen financial resilience in the event of an accident, illness or worse through insurance protections. Or, providing access to deals and discounts on things such as the weekly shop or fuel.

The data that we have tells us that support such as this is overwhelmingly appreciated. For example, 80% of the workers we support with insurance say that these protections make them feel safer

Showing you care also translates into workers sticking around for longer: 79% of our members agree that the benefits and protections we provide make it more likely that they will continue working through their existing platform.  

This means that a well designed benefits and protections programme can simultaneously address both the cost of living crisis and the recruitment and retention challenge. 

That is, deliver both social and business impact hand-in-hand.

June 30, 2022