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Apps that allow employees to access their salary before payday are attracting high-profile investors and signing up major employers. But does offering a financial lifeline to workers help or hinder their financial issues? Jo Faragher reports.
“It isn’t a loan, it’s money you’ve already earned. And not having to ask for it gives employees a sense of autonomy,” explains Claire Anderson, head of people at Camden Town Brewery. Last September, the company implemented a piece of technology called Wagestream, which allows employees to access up to 30% of the money they’ve already earned before payday, for a fee of £1.75.
Just under a third of staff have already taken advantage of the benefit, with the average person withdrawing between 15% and 25% of their earned pay during the month.
“We were getting requests for loans or advances and realised people could do with more flexibility over their money,” she adds.
Workers can opt in to Wagestream and it doesn’t touch the company’s payroll system as money is paid into a temporary ledger account. Their salary, after deductions, goes into their usual bank account at the end of the month. Employees can track what they’ve accessed already via an app. “We see a lot of activity towards the end of the month when people would typically reach for their credit card,” says Anderson.
“Earned wage access” tools such as this are attracting increasing amounts of interest and investment. Wagestream recently won a £4.5 million round of funding from a group of backers including Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. Venture capitalists in the US have invested tens of millions of dollars on a clutch of start-ups including Even, PayActiv and DailyPay. They all work in slightly