How employers can tackle the money stigma in the room

Danny Egan, Wagestream

We do not like talking about money. That’s one of the key findings of Wagestream’s State of Financial Wellbeing 2022 research. Over two-thirds (68%) of UK employees with money worries do not tell their employer about their concerns. We must tackle this issue if we’re to make progress on financial wellbeing – as employers, and as a society.

Why do 68% of UK employees not want to tell their employer about their money worries? Most cite feelings of shame and embarrassment, or a cultural belief that you shouldn’t talk about your finances with others. Some cited a lack of trust in their employer – or a fear of discrimination or job loss once their issues had been divulged.

Although there’s still some way to go, we’ve made good progress on tackling the mental health stigma as a society – and it’s no surprise that, as a result, people are much more likely to talk about their mental health in the workplace. If we want to open the conversation so people can improve their financial wellbeing, we need to do the same with money.

3 ways employers can tackle the money stigma at work

1. Train money champions to signpost and be visible

There’s been progress on the mental health stigma and one of the reasons is the success of the Mental Health First Aiders and similar schemes. Without training, it can be hard for managers and colleagues to know what should and shouldn’t be said, but this type of training gives confidence that makes people approachable but also more likely to open a conversation.

2. Never waste an opportunity to talk about money

At certain times, macro-economic trends put money in everyone’s minds – in 2022 there’s been a convergence of several, including Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis. This is happening at the societal level and, since people have money on the mind, they’re more open to conversation openers from their employer.

It’s not only societal trends that offer opportunities to talk about money. Internal changes, such as promotions, are good opportunities to encourage employees to review their short-term and long-term financial goals. The same is true of external changes in an employee’s life: for example when people apply for mortgages they often talk to their HR department.

Don’t waste these opportunities to start a dialogue – it’s a great way to build trust with employees. In fact, nothing says you’re more open to having a conversation than by clearly showing you’re interested in starting one. If you have money champions, using them to start conversations within their departments or cohorts can be an easy way to take action at scale.

3. Celebrate Talk Money Week throughout your organisation

Talk Money Week is a yearly campaign aimed at encouraging conversations about money – it’s not limited to the workplace, but it’s an ideal existing initiative that organisations can use as a catalyst for their own plans. In 2022, Talk Money Week begins on November 7th. Spearheaded by the Money and Pensions Service, Talk Money Week offers a participation pack for employers looking to take part, that includes various useful materials and insight so you can get off to a good start. It’s a great way to start a conversation internally and provides a yearly date for your diary.

Financial wellbeing strategies should not only look at new support, but existing policies to ensure you’re not unwittingly making it expensive to come to work. How else should you support your employees through the cost-of-living crisis?

If you’d like to find out how Wagestream can help your business, contact us and we’ll put you in touch.