In this article we will cover:
- Why employers should embrace financial wellness programmes
- How to approach a salary review meeting
- Empowering employees to be finance and tax-savvy
- Tackling the challenges of remote working
Employee financial wellbeing has become a key consideration for organisations over recent months.
And is it any wonder?
With inflation on the rise, countless workers in Ireland have experienced increased levels of financial stress.
What’s more, as the Irish jobs market becomes increasingly competitive, many employers have been looking for ways to stand out from the crowd, and to improve their employee retention and satisfaction.
COVID-19 has posed many challenges to Irish businesses and not every employer is in a position to offer salary increases.
So what role can organisations play in supporting their staff and reducing financial worries and stresses?
This was one of the key questions explored at the recent Employee Wellbeing Summit 2022.
At the event, our panel discussed some of the practical steps employers can take to improve the financial wellbeing of their employees and outlined how such measures can help to improve employee performance and retention.
Our financial wellbeing panel
- Eoin McGee, Financial Planner, Radio and TV Broadcaster, and Author
- Joanna Murphy, CEO, Taxback.com
- Barry Cahill, Director of Financial Wellbeing Services, Taxback.com
- Julie Galbraith, Partner, Eversheds Sutherland
Below we have outlined the 5 top Financial Wellbeing Takeaways from the Employee Wellbeing Summit 2022.
1 - Why should employers care about financial wellbeing?
“Firstly, as employers, we need to show that we care about our employees,” says Joanna Murphy, CEO of Taxback.com.
“Let’s be honest, the last two years has been tough for everyone. Ultimately it was impossible to foresee the pandemic and everything that has happened since. As employers, we need to show understanding and compassion for our employees.”
“Stress can affect productivity”
As Financial Planner Eoin McGee points out, financial stress can have a negative impact on employee productivity. By taking steps to reduce employee financial stress, employers can potentially see benefits in work performance.
“When an employee is feeling stressed, it can have a negative affect on their productivity at work. We know that if your mind isn’t in the game, it doesn’t matter what job you are in, it’s going to have an impact on your performance.
“I think we have a moral and ethical responsibility to our employees. Anything that employers can do to help with employee financial wellbeing is great for the employee, and it’s also great for the employer. I think it is a win-win. And I don’t see any reason why an employer should avoid these responsibilities.”
Improving employee retention
Today’s Irish job market is undoubtedly very competitive. Many employers are looking for ways to set themselves apart in order to improve their employee satisfaction and retention. Barry Cahill, Director of Financial Wellbeing Services, Taxback.com argues that financial wellbeing programmes can help businesses to achieve this goal.
“I chat with different organisations on the topic of financial wellbeing every day,” says Barry. “What I have seen over the last few months is that employees are actually now going to employers to ask them about financial wellbeing.
“This has been a development that has occured since Covid-19. And I think a lot of companies are now focussed on employee wellbeing and have wellness programmes in place to cover financial, physical and mental wellbeing.”
Communication is key
In order to support staff with their financial wellbeing, Julie Galbraith, Partner, Eversheds Sutherland argues that companies should start by better communicating their existing remuneration packages and benefits.
“This is one of the easiest things to get right,” she says. “You already have the information so why not share it with your employees and help them to better understand their financial package and what it means for their pocket?”
“I think it is so valuable when employers better communicate to employees what they are earning per year, what their additional benefits are on top of that and what it all means for their pocket.”
“For example, pensions are a subject that many people are very unsure about. Many workers just don’t understand their pension and what the employer contribution means. If employers can play a role in helping their staff to better understand benefits such as pensions, I think this can be really valuable.”
2 - How to request a salary increase from your employer
Recent research from Excel Recruitment has found that more than half of employers are planning to increase pay for their staff in 2022.
So what are employers looking for when a staff member meets with them to request a pay rise?
Eoin says the first step is to do your homework.
“The best way to encourage an employer to give you a pay rise is to demonstrate the difference between what you are doing in your role now compared to what you were doing when you last had a salary review. Don’t just expect a pay increase because you haven’t had one in recent years. Go into the meeting with your manager loaded with the information on why and how you are adding more value.
“If you can put a monetary amount on that difference – great! This will show how much extra you are generating for the business compared to what you were doing before. However, not everyone will be able to put a monetary value on their role. But the key is to show your employer the additional value that you have offered to the business since your last increase. And, if you are able to show that there are a number of cases where your colleagues are doing the same role as you, but getting paid more, this will also strengthen your case.”
Employees should feel comfortable
Julie believes that many employers could be doing more to make employees feel comfortable to ask for an increase in salary.
“Some people have particular attributes which make them less inclined to request a salary increase,” she says. “Meanwhile, other employees have different attributes that mean they are more likely to feel confident and ask for a salary increase.
“It’s important that employers develop a culture of openness and transparency where every staff member feels they can talk to their manager. Whether they want to request a pay increase, or to work from home – it’s important that every employee feels confident that they can ask for it.”
3 - Educating employees on their tax entitlements
That’s the average tax refund an Irish worker can claim.
And yet, thousands of Irish taxpayers miss out on claiming their tax entitlements every year.
As Julie points out, supporting employees with their tax entitlements can be a cost-effective way to enhance their financial wellbeing.
“At a time when many employers are trying to figure out whether they can offer employees a 5% or 10% salary increase, it’s interesting to note that the average employee can claim €1,000 in tax relief but this money is often forgotten about.
“€1,000 is quite a good salary increase for many people and that is the amount of money in tax relief that is being left on the table.
“This is why it’s a good idea for employers to get their staff together and educate employees about their financial entitlements.”
Removing the tax stigma
Many employees miss out on their tax entitlements because they are wary of interacting with Revenue. Barry says that employers should work to remove the stigma surrounding tax.
“Owing money to the tax office does happen, but it is rare for most workers,” says Barry.
“It’s a good idea for employers to help employees with tax,” adds Barry. “Whether you have been working from home, incurred medical expenses, or paid tuition fees, there are dozens of reliefs that can be claimed. And so, being tax-savvy is really a no-brainer. This is why employees should feel comfortable in claiming their tax entitlements.
“It doesn’t matter if you are in your early 20s or in your early 60s, having a really good understanding of your personal tax situation is something that everyone needs to have a good handle on.”
4 - Employees want to be finance-savvy
“One of the positive developments that have come from the pandemic is that so many people have used it as an opportunity to educate themselves about their finances,” says Eoin.
“For example, I put up a question box on social media every Saturday. People are encouraged to send their questions on finance. I get between 900 and 1,100 questions each week. And that is because people are interested in their money and want to be finance-savvy.
“We are now finding that people who have never had any savings before, during the pandemic, have maybe cleared their credit card and their overdraft and they have got a couple of grand in their bank account again or for the first time. And my big fear is that those people who have managed to get on the savings horse will get knocked off by inflation.”
Joanna believes that companies should consider enlisting the help of external experts to help support the financial wellbeing of their staff.
“It is very important to educate people and to let them know what they are entitled to and how to ask the right questions. But sometimes it can be difficult for people to talk about their personal circumstances with their employer. Dealing with external experts provides people with privacy, which is important. After all, people have very colourful lives, they could have experienced all sorts of turbulence or tribulation in their lives and to be able to have a safe place where they can speak with someone anonymously is very important.”
5 - Managing the challenges of remote working
Remote working was widely adopted in workplaces following the outbreak of COVID-19.
From reduced commuting times and more time spent with family, workers have enjoyed many benefits of remote working. But, as Julie points out, employers can often see reductions in team morale and camaraderie when staff work from home. Workers may also be missing out on important opportunities to advance their careers.
“I would say that about 60% of organisations are in hybrid mode at the moment. Hybrid working is great for the employees and for the employers but there are a lot of challenges in terms of engagement.
“While no one ever intends to leave anyone out, important decisions and discussions happen much more naturally when we meet in person – for example when we walk to the shop for lunch or a coffee.
“And we have seen quite a big increase in grievances from employees over the last year. A whole host of issues have been cropping up.
“In a remote working environment, there can sometimes be distrust between employees and that isn’t great. People can sometimes feel ‘I’m working so hard, but my colleagues aren’t. But you can’t see what your colleagues are doing as easily when you are working from home. By having open discussions on these points, employers can potentially avoid a lot of bigger issues in the future.”
Remote work and tax relief
Where an employee is working from home, employers can pay €3.20 tax-free per day to the employee to cover the additional costs associated with working from home. This payment is not a legal obligation and not many employers avail of this option.
Where employees do not receive this payment, they are entitled to claim tax relief directly themselves from Revenue.
Barry believes that employers who support their staff in claiming e-worker tax relief can improve employee retention and satisfaction.
“Not many employers include the €3.20 for home working in employee pay. So if employers are looking for a unique benefit to offer staff, this is certainly one area which can be looked at.
“Alternatively, employers could enlist the help of experts to help staff to claim their tax entitlements.”
Include a financial wellbeing programme within your suite of employee benefits
Whether it’s medical expenses, tuition fees, or e-worker tax relief, most Irish workers are entitled to claim tax entitlements at the end of the year.
In fact, the average Irish tax refund is €1,880, so it is easy to see how this money can make a big difference for many workers across the country.
Taxback.com has developed a unique financial support initiative that enables employers to enhance their employees' financial wellbeing by helping them to claim their tax entitlements.
How our financial wellbeing service works
- We create a dedicated portal for you to share with your employees
- Once the employee registers with us, we complete a four-year review of their taxes
- We submit the tax return on behalf of the employee
- Any refund due is transferred straight to the employee's bank account
The benefit for your employees
- We will apply every tax relief and benefit they’re due to their tax return
- They will receive their maximum Irish tax refund
- 24/7 support to answer their tax questions
- Full Revenue tax compliance guaranteed
Book a free demonstration
If you would like to learn more about our Financial Wellbeing Service, why not book a free demonstration today?
Contact Barry Cahill to learn more.