Dread it. Run from it. Brexit is coming.
Yup, we hate to bang on about it, but the saga of Brexit – as you’re probably well-aware - will be reaching its nail-biting crescendo on October 31st 2019.
Deal or no deal? Canada-style trade deals? A customs union, maybe? Who knows, really?! One thing is for certain though, and that’s the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s decision to leave the EU is going to affect each and every one of our lives.
Whether those effects are positive or negative remains to be seen (we’re not taking sides here…), but that hasn’t stopped the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s exit from the EU taking its’ toll on the economy. And the timing really couldn’t be worse…
COUNTING THE COST OF A BREXIT CHRISTMAS
As we approach the end of summer, people’s thoughts will be turning towards year-end and the upcoming festive break.
Whilst this is often traditionally seen as a time for relaxation, happiness and enjoyment, it can actually be an incredibly stressful time of the year for many people.
A core contributing factor to stress over the festive season can come from the rising cost of Christmas. After all, the festive break is usually a time for indulging in gifts, parties and food which all take their toll on the bank balance.
In fact, it’s estimated that 57% of us will overspend this Christmas on average around £152.
For those on lower or stagnant wages, that overspend can lead to a whole heap of trouble – especially when you consider that wages generally must stretch for longer between December and the new year.
It’s at this point we must return to the subject of Brexit. Sorry.
With the financial uncertainty swirling around the UK economy like a bad smell, it’s extremely likely that the Christmas of 2019 could be more than expensive than ever. And we’re not just talking about the obligatory cost of gifts and partying excess.
With the very real prospect of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, the UK’s reliance on food imports could hit people financially like the proverbial tonne of bricks.
The prospect of a ‘No Deal’ exit could mean delays to food supplies and additional costs to suppliers; translating to higher costs at the checkout for everyone.
At the time of writing, it’s estimated that there would be additional 22% import tariffs of food into the UK affecting everything on a family’s traditional Christmas menu; from bacon and ham, to wine, potatoes and even your favourite cheeses.
It’s only when you start totting up just how expensive our normal food shopping habits could become that you begin to understand how this year’s Christmas could be a potential ticking time bomb for people living in uncertain financial times. Especially when you also consider that families with children will spend on average between £1,000 and £2,700 this festive season – with gifts making up the majority of that spend.
CHRISTMAS CUTBACKS OR CREDIT?
So, it’s looking likely that 2019 will be the year many will be watching their bank balances like an overactive-hawk. It may even be the case that many people will look to load up on credit cards or overdrafts not just to splurge on Christmas, but also their day-to-day shopping, too.
If using credit or overdraft facilities are not possible, then cutting back on Christmas spending will be the only viable option.
This statement is backed up by a poll conducted by Nationwide Building Society, that found 67% of people are aiming to reduce their festive spending, with more than one in three (34%) cutting back due to a reduced disposable income or tight finances.
Whilst these concerns are of course going to affect people’s personal finances in different ways, it’s something that employers need to be attuned to. But why?
With keeping finances in check becoming ever-more of a fine balancing act, it can become very easy for people to lose balance and slip into more and more debt. This isn’t just great for their finances, but it’s also potentially damaging to their wellbeing – and this bit is important…
THE BENEFITS OF HAVING WORKPLACE BENEFITS
All employers have a duty of care to their employees; and whilst this of course doesn’t stretch to handing over stacks of cash to spend willy-nilly, taking an active and personal approach to the wellbeing of their staff should be a priority – now, more than ever.
With the financial pressures of Christmas – along with the ever-increasing cost of living – now playing a huge part in everyone’s life, the natural reaction for people is to look to earn more money to improve their quality of life. This means that employers have to work very hard to not only attract the best talent to their workforce, but also retain them too – all without necessarily resorting to larger wage packets.
The balance of power in the job market has shifted firmly into the employee’s corner.
With the job market booming and competition for the best workers fierce, the most successful and productive organisations are understanding the positive effects employee benefits can have on all aspects of their staff retention, recruitment and engagement.
Offering benefits to employees shows that they’re more than just a cog in the machine.
They help them have a better quality of life through giving them access to products or services which may otherwise be cost-prohibitive. You may not be in a position to offer wage rises every year, but offering a benefit such as a staff discount scheme will certainly give your employees a little extra cash to spare each and every month.
Plus, they can also help those all-important wages go for further for longer – especially handy over the long festive break.
Just think about it for a second: if you were in the market for a new job, where annual wages will be broadly similar, but one employer can help you save money on your day-to-day spending, offer exclusive employee discounts at supermarkets and high-street retailers, or even give you access to employee loans and private healthcare, doesn’t that choice become that little bit more attractive?
With Christmas one of the most expensive times of the year for everyone, employers who help their employees stay on sound financial footing over the festive season will reap the rewards.
And isn’t that a Christmas present that everyone can enjoy?