Friday, May 04, 2007

Get your boss to buy you a house

Although it sounds crazy an article I read online today seems to be suggesting that in the not-too-distant it could be fairly commonplace for employers to help staff get a foot on the property ladder. And this got me thinking...

The first rungs of the property ladder in the UK have been greased somewhat by rapidly increasing house prices in the past few years. The average price for a house in the UK went past the £150,000 mark for the first time last year. Combined with a staggering 2006 average student debt of £13,252 per person (according to Natwest) it's really no fun at all for a number of those trying to land their first house. Add to this recent interest rate rises and even if a first time buyer manages to squirrel away enough money for a deposit and mortgages themselves to the hilt for a 1 bed flat in the dodgy part of town, they'll still have to be super-frugal to avoid becoming one of the 17,000 people who had their home reposessed in 2006!

All in all it's a pretty glum picture and it makes the response from HSA all the more welcome. By allowing people to save up specfically for a house it takes a lot of the burden off the individual and gives them a suitable target to aim for without being unrealistic. So good work to the HSA!

What else can be done though? What more could (/should?) employers be doing to look after their staff? How about the following:

  • Consultations with professional financial advisers provided for all employees, completely free of charge. Absorbing what would be a relatively small cost to ensure that your people don't end up in financial difficulties. Staff with comfortable home lives are happy staff. And happy staff are productive staff, as we know.
  • Free or subsidised transport for employees. If the office is out of town maybe set up a minibus service. Reward car sharing, provide travel allowances, generally make it easy and cheap for people to turn up (because let's face it, on a rainy Monday morning turning up may be the last thing they want to do).
  • Help and advice on where to live, what the locality is like and any other pertinent information (schools, shopping, cinemas - all that non-work stuff that work gets in the way of). You can find a lot of the info here, so there's no excuse for not providing the basics at least.
  • Flexible working hours and locations where possible, particularly to take into consideration family commitments. As can be seen with this handy calculator (the link came from Guy, I think it's Mother's Day in America shortly), a stay-at-home parent is worth serious money. Making their life as easy as possible should be one of an employer's top priorities.
  • For larger organisations how about company-owned property that can be rented out to staff at a cheap rate. Not Robert Owen-esque or anything, just some apartments that people can stay in whilst they save up and find their feet. This would be particularly helpful for new graduates or those looking to relocate. It could also help out when hiring specialist contractors who are looking to commute to work for short periods of time.

Obviously all of the above take time, money and effort. Plus, they're ideas off the top of my head rather than fully developed strategies. If employers are to truly offer a unique proposition to potential employees though, there's a lot worse starting points they could go from. Thoughts?

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

I think these are great ideas but I may be biased as I recently moved into my own place. It took me two years to save the money needed to move into a letted property and found it was quite a shock to the system.
As location is a big part of working life and starting on the property ladder is a huge part of anyone's life, I think any help from employers would be a massive help and comfort to employees.