Money worries pushing people to work more hours and while ill, research finds

Experts urge employers to have financial wellbeing policies in place, warning the cost of living crisis is not affecting everyone equally

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Nearly one in three employees have had to work more hours or extra shifts because of rising living costs, while nearly half have worked while ill, research has shown.

In a poll of 1,006 workers, conducted by CIPHR in May, 31 per cent reported working more hours and extra shifts over the last few months because of the increase in living costs.

Similarly, the survey also found that 46 per cent of employees forced themselves to work when they should have taken time off ill because they could not afford to miss out on earnings. 

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This rose to 56 per cent when looking specifically at those earning £30,000 per year or less, compared to just 37 per cent of higher earners on £45,000 a year or more. 

Claire Williams, chief people officer at CIPHR, said the increasing pressure caused by the rising cost of living has “inadvertently created a situation where more and more employees are forced to work when they may not be well enough to do so, because of the financial impact of taking time off.”

She cautioned that financial struggles could also be a huge stressor that could, in turn, impact on an employee’s mental health and their ability to perform their role, and said organisations had a responsibility to support their workers’ mental and financial wellbeing as much as their physical health.

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“Cost of living increases are impacting everyone but not everyone equally. Running financial education sessions and sharing useful financial information and resources can help mitigate some of the effects,” said Williams.

Louise Aston, wellbeing director at Business in the Community, said the poll's findings came as no surprise. “We know that with more people struggling to prioritise whether to heat their homes, buy petrol or cut back on meals, this crisis will have unforeseen costs and consequences on employees’ mental and physical health,” she said. 

Aston advised employers to take a longer-term view when prioritising the mental and physical health of all employees if they wanted to attract and retain talent.

“In the days ahead, employers will need to offer their workforce empathy, compassion and flexibility so that employees are able to work in ways that support their wellbeing, including being able to request flexible working from day one and to switch off at the end of their agreed hours,” she said.

This was echoed by Charles Cotton, senior performance and reward adviser at the CIPD, who said HR teams needed to have financial wellbeing policies to respond to employees’ money stresses. This could be done by ensuring wage rates were fair and liveable, and that there were opportunities for in-work progression. 

“Things that HR teams can do quickly include encouraging employees to be open about their money worries, signposting sources of financial information and guidance, and ensuring that eligible low-paid workers are accessing both the company and state benefits to which they are eligible,” he added.

The CIPHR survey found that one in four (26 per cent) men and one in five (18 per cent) women have requested a pay rise to help offset record inflation.

Others have looked elsewhere to increase their earnings, with 12 per cent of respondents saying they have already found alternative employment with higher wages, and 27 per cent saying they are considering doing the same.

The survey also revealed that two in three (68 per cent) respondents have felt stressed or overwhelmed at times because of the cost of living crisis, with women more likely than men to report feeling this way (74 per cent and 61 per cent respectively).

Younger workers, aged between 18 and 34, were the most likely age group to say they were stressed or overwhelmed because of the cost of living crisis, with 76 per cent reporting this.