In recent months, JRF has been speaking to employers who want to better support their employees about how they can play their part in addressing in-work poverty and the cost of living crisis. While action from Government is key, employers also have an essential role to play in supporting employees who are struggling to get by.
The cost of living crisis has seriously exacerbated pressures on households, but many of these pressures are not new. While many working people are being pulled into hardship by spiralling costs, others were struggling to make ends meet even before the crisis hit. As we headed into the pandemic, in-work poverty was a growing concern, with too many people in work still struggling to get by due to factors including poor quality jobs and barriers to work, combined with an erosion in social security support, and high housing costs.
But employers can make an essential positive difference to the pressures facing households, now and in the longer term. In recent months we’ve heard about employers taking action to boost their employees’ financial security, whether signing up to the Real Living Wage, making additional cost of living payments, or signposting to specialist guidance. There are a wealth of examples of positive, practical changes which employers can make, from more fundamental questions of job design – like offering flexible working or more secure shifts – to building a compassionate workplace culture, and effectively signposting employees to specialist support like debt advice. A focus on job quality – including security, fair pay, flexible working, and a supportive workplace culture – must be part of the solution to supporting households through the current crisis and building a stronger economy in the recovery.
This is a difficult economic context for many employers too, and it might feel challenging to focus on issues like job quality or investment in your employees. But despite these challenges, now is the time to act on investing in the quality of work, with the potential to bring benefits for employees, employers, and the wider economy. This new briefing for employers provides essential insight and analysis on in-work poverty and the cost of living crisis, why action is needed, the benefits of taking action on job quality now, and a range of practical recommendations for employers who want to support their employees through cost of living pressures and tackle in-work poverty in the longer term.
We’d like to thank the CIPD, Business in the Community, and NHS Employers whose conversations in recent months have helped us shape this briefing: Many of the issues linked to the cost-of-living crisis are not new, but stem from deep-rooted inequalities that have existed in UK society for decades. Business in the Community, the Prince’s Responsible Business network, is calling on organisations to strengthen and target their support for employees, particularly those on low incomes and more vulnerable, as energy, food and fuel bills continue to rise. We are already seeing more people experience in-work poverty because of this crisis, and responsible employers must think carefully about how they can reduce the number of people struggling, by providing good and sustainable employment that supports a thriving economy.
For additional support and guidance
- CIPD for guidance on the cost of living, and a joint resource hub with JRF on tackling in-work poverty.
- Business in the Community for employer guidance, including their cost of living action plan for businesses.
- Timewise, the flexible working consultancy, for advice on how to implement flexible working.
- The Living Wage Foundation on how to become a Living Wage and Living Hours employer.
- ACAS and the TUC for research and advice on improving the quality of jobs across the economy.
- Organisations including StepChange and Christians Against Poverty which provide free debt advice.
- Citizens Advice for advice and support on issues including the rising cost of living.
- You can find more JRF research and analysis on the cost of living.
To discuss anything in this briefing, please contact [email protected]