Two in five employers would sack a worker who had been made homeless, study finds

Experts say firms need to focus on empathy and supporting employees who need help moving out of poverty

Two-fifths of employers said they would try to sack a staff member if they were made homeless, research has found. 

In a poll of 250 employers, conducted by the charity Crisis, 42 per cent admitted they would likely seek to terminate an employee’s contract if they were homeless.  

Additionally, almost three in five (58 per cent) said it was likely homelessness would have a negative impact on a prospective employee’s application, while a similar number (56 per cent) said it would have a detrimental effect on a current employee’s job.

However, the report said it was unclear even among employers as to why businesses expected such negative outcomes for homeless staff.

When asked if they would provide support for people, 84 per cent said they would refer them to an employee assistance programme; 90 per cent said they would offer them time off; and 79 per cent would offer them an emergency loan.

Anecdotally, the report also said there was a lot of confusion among employers about what their responsibilities were towards employees who were homeless or facing homelessness.

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One employer responded to the survey saying: “We’d help them as much as possible but ultimately domestic issues are not the employer’s responsibility.” Another employer said it would depend on the employee’s performance, explaining: “They would probably be removed or turned away depending on what they have to offer to the company.

“If they offer something that is valuable to us like skills and such and high-level grades, we will be more than happy to hire them and give them any support they need,” they said.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said that “for too long now, insecure poorly paid jobs combined with spiralling housing costs have been putting untold pressure on people up and down this country”.

“​​It is crucial that everyone plays their part in tackling homelessness, and this includes businesses and employers providing the right support to staff when they fall on hard times,” he said, adding that firms need to provide a reliable route out of poverty, otherwise this will continue to be an inhuman and devastating reality for many.

Nicola Inge, employment and skills director at Business in the Community, agreed that employers need to “step up to the plate” and play their role in identifying and supporting employees experiencing homelessness.

“The solution comes from being empathetic and understanding, offering flexibility for employees who may need time off to resolve their situation and being open to exploring other ways you can support an employee going through these challenges,” she explained.

The poll found that 44 per cent of employers said they did not have any policies in place to support staff experiencing homelessness, while nearly half (47 per cent) said it was likely that their firm wouldn’t know how to respond to an employee or prospective employee being homeless.

Overall, the majority (99 per cent) of employers stated they would like more information on how to support their staff if they were at risk or experiencing homelessness.

Greg Mangham, founder and CEO of Only A Pavement Away, said that “the big thing employees have to learn is empathy”. This can be as simple as making sure a person knows how to get to work, what travel they have to take and ensuring they are confident in doing the role, he said.

“Stability comes through employment,” Mangham told People Management, citing how some employers he works with have gone as far as making donations to help with rent or support someone moving into independent living. 

But he said that the attitude of ending contracts due to homelessness was “draconian”, warning that people have to realise that “it's quite easy today to have a job and then tomorrow, be homeless”.