Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered his debut budget in early March where he announced a raft of emergency measures to help combat the devastating impact of Covid-19.
The budget, which had been postponed in November due to the 2019 General Election, focused on financial support for businesses, public services and the overall economy, including a £5bn response fund for the NHS.
Alongside measures to support businesses and employees through the COVID-19 pandemic, the Budget also addressed a number of other areas which could impact employee wellbeing:
60 day breathing space from problem debt
The government will help those struggling with debt by introducing breathing space for up to 60 days from 20211. This means that those in debt will have interest and fees on their unpaid debts frozen during this time - and will also be protected from enforcement action.
Government-supported alternatives to payday loans
The government have pledged improved access to social and community lenders as viable alternatives to payday loans which tend to incur high-cost credits. As part of this, fintech solutions will be developed in order to address the challenges faced by the affordable lending sector.
According to the Aon Benefits and Trends 2020 survey, 48 per cent of employers currently intend to implement financial initiatives over the next twelve months
Extension of tax-exempt services covered by EAPs
Measures were also announced to ‘extend the scope’ of non-taxable counselling services offered by Employee Assistance Providers (EAPS) such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) from April 2020.
With 92 per cent of employers currently offering an EAP to their workforce according to the latest Aon Benefit & Trends 2020 survey, this will be a particularly welcome move.
On-going plans to launch Carers’ Leave Consultation
Although a long-term measure, the government have reemphasised their commitment towards looking at support for carers and will announce the launch of government-backed Carers’ Leave Consultation in due course. The consultation will look at a new type of in-work entitlement for the 6.5 million employees in the UK with (unpaid) caring responsibilities, many of whom are struggling to balance both roles.
“This year’s Budget will have a significant impact on employers. It’s estimated that one in five employees may be off work at any one time due to COVID-19.
This will be an enormous challenge for businesses to face, as well as needing to get to grips with the Government’s new stance on Statutory Sick Pay. Yet, on top of this, there are complexities with new pension rules and changes to NHS funding, general and financial wellbeing, and sustainability.
Each of these impact employers’ benefit programmes. One thing is for certain, everything is moving incredibly quickly.”
- Jeff Fox, Principal at Aon
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