Christmas can come with a cost. But a little education can help.
Christmas can certainly be a magical time of year, especially from the point of view of watching your money magically disappear!
Indeed, it has become known as the period when many people buy this year’s gifts with next year’s income. According to research by GoCompare Money, 10% of UK households put the entire extra cost of Christmas on a credit card.¹
The total bill for the festive season depends on which surveys you read, and for families with children aged under 18 the damage can be anything from £1,000 to over £2,700.²
Most expenditure inevitably revolves around presents, but it’s important not to underestimate the costs of food and drink and other expenses.
A Christmas lunch for a sizeable group has traditionally set the hosts back several hundred pounds, and, with recent Mintec research showing the cost of frozen turkeys to be 11% higher than last year, nothing is likely to get any easier.³
Those travelling to such an occasion may also incur significant rail or fuel costs, as can those attending Christmas work functions – not to mention the price of that new outfit!
So, all in all, a little advanced budgeting for Christmas is unlikely to go amiss, and this is certainly one area that Chase de Vere covers in detail in the financial education programmes we can deliver for employers in their workplaces.
We are well placed to help with financial education because, unlike many of our competitors in the employee benefits space, we have an independent financial adviser (IFA) arm. We can deliver everything from generic seminars and workshops to fully-regulated one-to-one face-to-face advisory sessions.
Christmas is also highly relevant to work we do with employee benefits, especially Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), which can, amongst many other things, provide employees with free and confidential 24/7 telephone-based and face-to-face stress counselling.
The feedback we get is that the festive period can be particularly difficult for those with suicidal thoughts or who are battling any kind of depression. Family rows, the costs of buying presents and that dreaded journey home. When it’s all over it can take their toll and, in some cases, can feel too much to handle.
Employers should therefore ensure that they actually offer an EAP. This may not involve any additional cost as one is often included as an added-value feature within employee benefits such as private medical insurance (PMI), health cash plans, group income protection and group life schemes.
Even more importantly still, they should ensure that the EAP and its potential benefits are effectively communicated to employees, and this is another area in which Chase de Vere can provide useful assistance.
There is little point in offering a valuable benefit if the workforce doesn’t have a clue it’s available, and some EAPs that are not communicated at all literally have zero usage. Those that are well communicated, on the other hand, may have take-up rates of 10% or higher.
Employers should also realise that Christmas throws up an opportunity to provide some highly-cost-effective perks like Christmas parties and other modest seasonal gifts such as turkeys, bottles of whisky or boxes of chocolates.
Such ‘non-financial benefits’ can make all the difference when it comes to retaining skilled staff as they can enhance loyalty and build relationships within the company that can act as the glue that binds people together.
However, for benefits other than parties, there is much to be said for varying what you offer each year because employees who receive the same gifts every Christmas come to expect them, and are therefore less grateful.
A word of warning also about Christmas parties. Because employer-sponsored events are considered extensions to the workplace, employers could in theory be held liable to discrimination or harassment claims should employees behave inappropriately.
So, in order to reduce these risks, it is advisable to issue a circular beforehand to remind employees of the content of relevant workplace policies.
Content correct at time of writing and is intended for general information only and should not be construed as advice.