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Financial Stress Takes a Toll at Work: How Employers Can Help
By Michelle Higgins
J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

The financial stress employees are under is spilling over at work.

Many employees are struggling to make ends meet. According to a recent Harris Poll survey called “The State of Employee Finances: 2022, A Purchasing Power Report,” 54 percent of full-time employees report they are having a hard time covering monthly expenses.
Some employers might think an employee’s personal financial struggle is a separate matter from company business. Statistics in the report, however, show a different story.

Workplace impact of financial stress

According to the survey:
  • 34 percent report financial matters affect physical health,
  • 28 percent say finances affect the ability to focus at work, and
  • 25 percent claim it affects job satisfaction.
Moreover, 72 percent of those surveyed think employers share some of the responsibility for helping them improve their financial well-being.

Providing support through benefits

The survey notes that 80 percent of employees say their work benefits have a direct impact on them staying at their current job.
Options for supporting financial health include expanding voluntary benefits and having a broader approach to employees’ financial well-being.

Limits on debt collection calls in the workplace

Employers can also help employees focus on their jobs by placing limits on workplace calls from debt collection agencies.

An employer can tell a debt collector that it will not pass along collection calls to employee and that it does want such calls placed to the company. But that alone may not end unwanted calls from a persistent collector.

If an employee is getting calls from a debt collection agency and informs the agency that company policy prohibits taking such calls at work, the agency is required by law to stop calling the person at work. This provision is in Section 1692c of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

The law, however, does not apply to organizations trying to collect their own debt, such as a property manager attempting to collect a tenant’s overdue rent or to a utility company attempting to collect an overdue electric bill. Those entities are not subject to the law and could continue calling a place of employment. Once the matter has been turned over to a debt collection agency, however, the agency is bound by the FDCPA.

In addition, under the FDCPA, it is illegal for a debt collector to come to a debtor’s workplace to collect payment. Debt collectors are also prohibited from harassing debtors. This includes harassment via:
  • Repeated calls
  • Threats of violence
  • Publishing information about debtors
  • Abusive or obscene language
Handling debt collection calls on cell phones

There are also restrictions on debt collection calls that are made to a personal cell phone during the work day.

As of November 30, 2021, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a final rule amending the regulation which implements the FDCPA.
One of the changes limits the frequency of calls. In addition, a debt collector may not communicate or attempt to communicate by sending an email to an email address that the debt collector knows is a work email address, subject to some exceptions.

For example, a collector may send messages to a work email if that email address was used to communicate with the debt collector about the debt and the owner of that address hasn’t opted out.

The value of financial well-being

In the current uphill battle of recruiting and hiring workers, it’s clear that employers have a strong reason to be concerned about employees’ personal financial struggles.

Finding ways to provide support can help employers attract and retain workers, and improve the workplace experience.

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