Employees are increasingly concerned about their financial wellness and want the organisations they work for to help them cope, reveals the MetLife Australia 2020 Employee Benefits Trends Study, which also offers practical ideas to support employees.

Many Australians are understandably worried about how much the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their finances.

The state of people's financial health – their ability to meet their financial needs and desires – has become a major concern for more than half (52 per cent) of employees, reveals MetLife Australia's 2020 Employee Benefits Trends Study (EBTS).

Published annually since 2016, MetLife Australia's EBTS measures the impact of employee benefits and wellbeing programs by surveying more than 1,000 employees and 300-plus business leaders of Australia-based companies.

Top five financial concerns for Australian workers

Worries about having enough money – now and in the future – were top of mind for Australian employees surveyed for the 2020 EBTS, who rated their top five concerns:

  1. Having enough money to pay my bills if someone in my household loses their job or is no longer able to work
  2. Having enough money to cover out-of-pocket medical costs that are not covered by Medicare or my health insurance
  3. Outliving my retirement savings
  4. Being able to afford the cost of healthcare in retirement
  5. Being able to save for big expenses/purchase (eg home, car, university)

"Finances are probably the forerunner for everything,” said one respondent. “That's just life, and most of us are worried day-to-day. Are we doing all right and providing for our children and providing for our spouse?"

When employees become stressed about their personal finances (which was the top source of stress for 34 per cent) and work (32 per cent), they're more likely to take time off work. And with two in three employees stating they feel more stressed now compared to how they felt before the pandemic, they're looking to their employers to help them cope.

Employee benefits make a big difference

The best employee benefit programs help staff improve their lives by addressing four important areas of wellness:

  1. Mental health – psychological and emotional wellbeing
  2. Financial health – personal and family financial security
  3. Social health – satisfying interpersonal relationships with others
  4. Physical health – improving enjoyment of life generally, while reducing risks of illness and injury

One of the aims of MetLife's annual EBTS is to highlight the opportunities and benefits of well-managed employment benefit programs. In 2020 the report reveals a remarkable trend: organisations that stepped up their efforts to support employees during COVID-19 found more of their employees said they felt valued and appreciated by their employer during COVID-19 than before:

  • 66 per cent of employees said they felt valued and appreciated while working at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared with …
  • 56 per cent of employees who reported feeling valued and appreciated while working before the COVID-19 pandemic

Overall, more than three quarters (76 per cent) of employees offered financial benefits are satisfied with their benefits, compared with only 59 per cent satisfaction among employees who don't have access to financial wellness programs as part of their benefits.

Importantly, offering support improves employee satisfaction with their employer. A big takeaway from the 2020 EBTS is that even during the pandemic, 57 per cent of employees who felt supported and valued said it made them a more loyal employee.

To learn more about supporting employees' financial wellness, download the MetLife Australia 2020 Employee Benefits Trends Study