This year has been a time in which staff have relied on their businesses more than perhaps ever before in recent history, to help them with the skyrocketing cost of living, perhaps offer a warm space in which to work, and yes, in some cases, also provide food to make it through the tougher points in the year.
According to the ONS, annual food inflation hit 16.5% in November, the highest rate for over 45 years and up from 16.4% in October. As a result, the cost of even the most basic food essentials such as pasta, vegetables and milk have increased dramatically.
Responses from businesses have been varied. Some, such as Monzo, Asda, Tesco, Morrisons and even the King of England himself, have offered staff a one-off cost-of-living payment of up to £700. Many more have opted to raise wages in line with inflation. And, a select few, have opted to offer staff a supply of free food that they can take home, or eat on-site.
This last option is perhaps the most divisive. Yes, staff may well be grateful for a complimentary hot meal when times are tough; however gratitude can quickly turn to resentment when it becomes obvious that the offer was made more for good PR, than to actually make a difference.
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This is exactly the situation that business Faltec Europe LTD recently found itself in, after a leaflet promising staff a hot meal was circulated among the 3,000-strong workforce.
“This winter, while we are going through the cost-of- living crisis, the Employee Forum has agreed with the management team that Faltec will offer a free hot meal for those that require it,” the leaflet read.
However, when staff arrived for the meal, they were reportedly ‘insulted’ to find that the so-called hot meal turned out to be a single Pot Noodle or sachet of porridge each. Of course, whilst the gesture may have been well-meaning, the outcome was not actually constructively very helpful for staff struggling though this time.
A ‘thank you’ teabag
Faltec Europe LTD is far from the only business to have fallen into this trap. In August, an Worcestershire-based NHS trust caused a major stir by giving purpose made cardboard sleeves with ‘A little treat to say thank you’ written on the front. However, when opened, the ‘thank you’ treats were discovered to be a single teabag.
A now-viral TikTok showing the ‘thank you’ teabags garnered a wealth of anger from viewers, stating that the move was ‘insulting’ and ‘offensive’. “Please tell me this is a joke? These workers are heroes. They should be getting free tea anyway. I’m fuming – the disrespect,” one user wrote.
“I saw this and I laughed before remembering a trust actually thought it would placate staff,” said another.