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'6 Moments that Matter' to improve working lives

ICAEW member Jane Portas focuses on how employers can build back financially fairer.

Covid-19 continues to profoundly affect all of our personal and business lives, our public services, British society and the economy.

It has also drawn our attention to how acutely sensitive our financial wellbeing is to our healthy wellbeing, while highlighting inequalities, in particular its effect on people with different work-life circumstances, gender and ethnicity.

My recent report for Insuring Women’s Futures, “Living a financially resilient life in the UK beyond Covid-19”, focusses on 6 Moments that Matter to build back fairer financial futures. Taking a ‘life journey‘ approach, it contemplates the healthy, work-life and financial impacts of Covid-19 facing women and men through the life course.

It references how policymakers, employers, the third and financial sector may collaborate to support levelling up.

Here I set out key highlights relevant to employers and opportunities to build back fairer, including supporting employee financial wellbeing, to help inspire loyalty, drive better performance and trust.

‘Risks in life’ facing working age people

The pandemic is profoundly impacting how people participate in work, leading to job loss and new ways of working, work-life balance challenges as well as causing greater health exposure for key workers (particularly BAME).

Students are experiencing difficulties accessing the job market (29% lost their job), many apprenticeships (one in five) and internships (28%) have been cancelled.

Many young people (record low employment for 16 to 24 year olds) and mothers are now redundant (47% more likely than fathers), furloughed or risk future job loss due to the sectors they work in. Meanwhile older workers face obstacles such as health concerns (particularly men) and risk long term worklessness (record decrease in older, especially female, workers).

Digital skills gaps, workplace biases, domestic abuse and pressures to care (including for grandchildren) create further barriers.

Without action, the combined effects of women’s and ethnic minorities’ lower pay and employment risks, lack of job opportunities for young and older workers, will lead to a widening of pay and pensions gaps perpetuating imbalances in financial resilience that will impact us all.

What employers can do: six moments that matter to help staff manage work and financial life

  1. Growing up, studying and requalifying - Support professional qualification students and CPD impacted by lockdown, mindful of gender gaps (ICAEW data highlights differing participation), and equip staff with digital work skills, in particular the young, returning mothers and older workers.
  2. Entering and re-entering the workplace - Ensure retention, re-employment, workforce restructuring and job creation strategies are balanced and inclusive, paying attention to gender, ethnicity and age-related pay gap data.
  3. Relationships: making and breaking up – Many people are unfamiliar with differences in marital and cohabitation financial rights, the importance of which has been spotlighted by wedding cancellations, rising break ups, and for some heightened domestic abuse. Workplace financial wellbeing best supports staff if it addresses both ‘your money and your life’, especially since many people don’t consider how their relationship and life circumstances impact their pensions plans, insurance and financial arrangements.
  4. Parenthood and becoming a carer - Create an environment at work that supports ways of working for women and men managing family commitments, embedding approaches that also provide flexibility for older workers and domestic abuse survivors to thrive in the changing workplace. Adopt our Financially Inclusive Flexible Working Pledge, find out about how you can support working families and older workers and sign up to Employers Initiative against Domestic Abuse.
  5. Later life, planning and entering retirement - Pensions wellbeing in the workplace will help those whose working arrangements, earnings and pensions have been impacted by Covid-19, to be better informed and to get their pensions back on track. Pension contribution gap analysis can help drive effective engagement strategies.
  6. Ill-health, infirmity and dying - Support staff whose wellbeing is impacted by Covid-19 health risks and prompt them to consider their future financial, protection and estate planning, and to keep their ‘wishes’ up to date. Where relevant, direct staff to employee benefits, or else to external sources of guidance such as the Money Advice Service.

About the author: Jane Portas has 30 years’ experience as a Partner at PwC and KMPG of advising international insurance businesses on prudential and conduct regulation, risk management, related strategic business change and group structure optimisation. She is a founder of Insuring Women's Futures, a Member of Women's Business Council and a Trustee of the Centre for Ageing Better.