Ming Campbell quoted one telling figure on last night’s Question Time – personal debt in the UK now adds up to £1.3 trillion. That’s a lot of money, and not all of us have the skills to get a grip on our finances. So when the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) says businesses need to help employees coping with debt, the suggestion makes sense.
The charity says the problem is likely to get worse this year – 93,000 people called the CCCS helpline in the first three months this year, compared to some 70,000 in the same quarter last year.
It believes employers are in an important position to help those who are struggling to deal with creditors.
Companies should encourage staff facing debt to seek help immediately and refer them to free sources of advice. This could prevent them from going to commercial organisations which can charge people thousands to sort out their finances.
Of course employers must be sensitive to issues of privacy in the workplace, so it’s more a question of providing information in newsletters or on noticeboards, for example, rather than having personal conversations. Offering signposts to sources of help shows that businesses care about staff and are aware of the problems they face. Stress about paying the bills affects our working lives and that’s not good for productivity.
Maybe it’s a good idea to have some kind of ‘managing your money’ lunchtime sessions in the office. Not done by reps of the big banks or building societies, but perhaps by trusted consumer organisations. Small and medium-sized businesses employ 14 million workers – if you boost the financial nous of only 10%, that’s still helping more than a million people.