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How SMEs can manage employee wellbeing support costs

The impact of Covid-19 has increased the focus on employee health and wellbeing. The support provided by employers has never been more important. But cost is a barrier, in particular for small businesses that are battling for survival.

The coronavirus pandemic has had an extraordinary impact on the workplace, both in physical terms and with regard to the mental health of employees. As a result, the role of employers as providers of employee health and wellbeing support, in its various forms, has grown significantly.

Staff wellbeing support and what SMEs are doing

New research by Worklife, which shows that almost 30% of small businesses are concerned that Covid-19 is having a negative effect on the wellbeing of their staff and that three in ten small firms are offering staff wellbeing support, suggests that while there is awareness of the subject, more can be done in terms of provision.

However, finding the capital to provide this support is clearly an issue. According to a recent study by Health Shield, almost half of SMEs cited cost as the main barrier to the implementation of broader employee health and wellbeing support.

While it is obvious why small businesses are struggling to find the cash for investment in such areas, as they battle extreme headwinds, at the same time, employee health and wellbeing is vital to business performance and recovery.

What is expected of SMEs and how they can afford it

With a significant amount of the nation’s workforce continuing to work from home, businesses have a responsibility to safeguard the mental and physical health of their employees in this environment, from providing workstations that meet health and safety regulations to helping to ensure that employees maintain a healthy work-life balance.

In addition, for employers that are preparing to reopen businesses and workplaces, they have a responsibility to put in place strategies for returning to work that take into consideration both physical changes in relation to Covid-19 requirements and the mental wellbeing of employees. This can include access to virtual GPs, a mental health app, counselling, rewards and more.

However, putting in place such practices and strategies comes at a cost and while larger companies are better equipped to make these changes, small businesses are in a much tougher position when it comes to finding the cash for investment.

How can they afford it? Alternative finance can help.

In the wake of prolonged caution from traditional lenders, alternative finance facilities such as invoice finance, asset finance, peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding are proving a vital source of capital for small businesses, both for maintaining cashflow and for essential investment. These facilities, which offer a more personalised approach to lending, are helping small businesses survive and target regrowth.

Notably, alternative lending is playing a prominent role in the government emergency support schemes, in particular the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which is connecting firms and the self-employed with loan, invoice finance and asset finance facilities. This profile is helping cement the reputation of alternative finance in the business sector.

What SMEs need to know about finance options

It is an incredibly challenging time for small businesses, but employee wellbeing and health are vital to re-growth and recovery and it is vital that firms provide the required support. As such, it is important that owners are aware of all the funding options available to them, from government emergency schemes to the services of alternative lenders.

To find out more about A&T Business Associates services, contact Tony Hedger on 01903 602211 or tony.hedger@atbusinessassociates.co.uk.

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