Making a business case for gender-specific benefits during a cost of living crisis
March 27, 2023
Since the end of the recent pandemic, the price of essential goods in the UK has been increasing faster than household incomes can sustain, which is resulting in the fall of disposable income. The rapid pace at which inflation has increased quickly overtook the rate nominal wages were increased, and as such incomes across the country are falling in real terms. Put simply, recent wage growth has not been sufficient enough to keep pace with inflation, which has resulted in a crisis now referred to as the ‘Cost-of-Living’ crisis.
According to the Bank of England, 80% of the economic causes behind this cost-of-living crisis are global, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and more recently the energy shortage.
How are your employees affected?
These increasing household bills will have a disproportionate effect on women, who are more likely to be managing tightening household budgets as well as juggling work and their own welfare.
Women are more often recognised as primary caregivers than men, as well as being far more likely to take financial responsibility for children, household food and essential domestic products. Therefore, they are not only less able to increase their working hours to subsidise income, but their outgoings are currently more susceptible to price surges.
The worst affected households will be those with the lowest incomes and largest outgoings; for example, if any of your employees are single mothers or have large amounts of dependents they will likely be feeling the greater effects. Many of these employees will be working women, forced to channel income into essentials, and leaving little to nothing leftover for mental and physical health considerations.
The majority of working adults express concern about the rising cost of living daily, according to the Office for National Statistics. This guarantees rising mental health concerns among your workforce that could be affecting either performance or retention of staff, as people will be aiming for employment with the best compensation possible and increasingly more concerned with finding reliable and stable work.
What are gender specific benefits and what should you offer?
At such a financially difficult time, there is a greater responsibility on employers to consider their employees’ individual welfare. However, the inflation of outgoing costs may also be affecting your company itself and, as such, increasing salaries in response is not always an option.
Instead, considering the immediate needs of employees can mean simply providing them with facilities they may not currently be able to provide themselves. Sadly, as the lower-income families struggle for basics such as food and energy, their health will also be implicated, suggesting busier hospitals by the winter of 2023 that will leave less time and attention for ongoing chronic conditions, such as menstrual conditions like Endometriosis and PCOS.
With women being affected so severely by the cost-of-living crisis, providing them with tailored healthcare can have a positive effect on the wider workforce. If you do not currently have any gender-specific benefits in place, consider starting with Menopause, as these symptoms affect as much as half of the employed population at some point in their career – therefore, you can guarantee to be investing in the current and future health of every female-identifying employee at some point throughout their employment with you.
“When we get it right for women, everyone benefits.” – Professor Dame Lesley Regan, women’s health ambassador for England
An employer’s main priority in a time of economic crisis is retaining a reliable and diverse workforce for consistency. As the Cost of Living Crisis makes essentials less achievable, offering generic services becomes less enticing to current employees, as the market widens up and offers more tailored job offers. Employees will be looking to have their individual needs met by an employer who understands the wider effect of global events. Offering personalised support will make you a far more attractive candidate for future hires, and will give you a better overall understanding of your workforce.
It might seem that implementing any form of health benefits in a time of crisis feels like an additional financial burden. However, as an employer you need to consider the long-term effect that investing in these benefits will have on the future life of your company, as well as taking reduced recruitment and training costs into consideration.
Nowadays, employers are already aware of the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion within their staff. As such, your company will likely have a diverse range of employees across all genders, ages and backgrounds, and so specialising the benefits you offer will give you better retention of these varied individuals. By offering personalised advice and the opportunity to speak directly to professionals, you reduce fear of marginalisation or lack of understanding of an identity, financial, age or gender-based concern that may have otherwise gone unspoken.
Its likely the above-mentioned, low-income groups that are most affected will make up the majority of your bottom line. Supplying them with the tools to look after themselves during a time of economic uncertainty will undoubtedly have a ripple effect up through the rest of your company. View this investment as a way of actively avoiding unreliable or unwell employees, early retirees, and dropouts due to health concerns, which will create a more unified team and promote a more efficient outcome overall.