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  • Writer's pictureDavid Brown

Flexible Working is a Start, but Every Day Should be Payday

People say you only miss something when it’s gone, and from pubs to hairdressers, we know that to be true. But there are some exceptions. For millions of workers forced to abandon their commute to the office, flexible working has been nothing short of a revelation. Our blinkers were forcibly removed, but now that they’re gone, few want to put them back on and return to the daily grind.

What started as a necessity borne of a crisis, is now, just one year on, viewed as reasonable employee demand, with the right to flexible working soon to be embedded in law.

People enjoy freedom and choice. Who knew? Or rather, why did it take a pandemic for us to stumble on a better way of working, and what are the other bad habits we’ve fallen into, just because we’ve always done it that way?

There is an obvious one, and again it’s the pandemic that’s shone a light on it; not how we work, but how we’re paid.

I’m old enough to remember the social cachet attached to moving from a wage to a salary. Monthly pay was a step into the professional class and a step away from the brown paper envelopes of the weekly wage.

Fast-forward to today and monthly salaries are the unquestioned norm. So too, sadly, are the pay-advance lenders that have been created by a system that withholds the money people have earned from them for thirty days. The blinkers need to come off. People rage at payday lenders, and rightly so, but payday lenders are only a symptom of a broken payroll system.

People shouldn’t be paying to access what’s already theirs

According to the Financial Conduct Authority, 10.7 million adults in the UK had low financial resilience before the pandemic. Today, that figure will be much higher. As lockdown is lifted, and people re-enter the workforce, let’s not return, unknowingly, to a system that denies people access to the money they’ve earned.

Just as Zoom has enabled homeworking, the technology already exists that can enable flexible and more frequent pay. With Hi, employees can choose to access their pay weekly or daily, and at no cost to them.

What’s required is a paradigm shift – for people to question the norm as they have done with flexible working – and demand what’s theirs. They should start with a simple question – why should I wait 30 days to access what I’ve earned?

It’s what over five million people taking out payday loans each year should be asking. According to the Competition and Markets Authority, people are borrowing in excess of £1.3 billion each year and paying in excess of £2 billion for High Cost Short Term Credit. The single most common amount being borrowed is £100, with the majority of borrowers taking out loans to cover everyday expenses such as groceries and utility bills. The largest group – workers aged 24 to 35 – are paying the price for a broken payroll system.

And it’s hitting people’s mental health as well as their pockets. A recent study by Close Brothers revealed that 94% of employees worry about money and 77% say it impacts their work. By providing easier access to earnings, daily pay will improve financial freedom and wellbeing.

After a year of anxiety and uncertainty, employees deserve the security in having access to the money they’ve earned.

When we escape this lockdown, life will be different – working life especially. How relevant will employee benefits like car mileage and the cycle-to-work scheme be to employees no longer tethered to the office? What can employers offer in the post-pandemic world that improves the lives of their employees?

We’ve seen the best companies embrace the opportunities provided by the lockdown to challenge old ways of thinking and to reset not only their operations but their relationships with employees. The misplaced fear that workers couldn’t be trusted to work from home has been blown away. Employees have shown themselves not only to be trustworthy, but incredibly resilient and loyal. Let’s repay that trust and give them what’s theirs. Let’s reinvent work and pay.

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