Supporting employees

The average household spends more than a tenth of its income on food. As costs increase, a quarter of Britons are skipping meals to make ends meet, risking their health and wellbeing.

  • In March 2023 food and non-alcoholic drink inflation hit an all time high of 19.1%, according to the Office for National Statistics.
  • Data from the Trussell Trust shows that 1 in 7 people using food banks are in employment, or live with someone who is.
  • In December 2022 we conducted a nationally representative survey of 2,012 UK workers revealing that almost half (45%) of households struggle to afford enough food and this is particularly common among workers with children and low-income households.
  • 39% of respondents agree that a meal card would mean not going hungry, with financial stress decreasing by 21% on average with the introduction of meal card.
  • In France, a similar meal card scheme helped workers earning the lowest incomes to effectively halve their total monthly food budget.

We think it’s time for a Real Meal Deal that puts money in people’s pockets to help pay for food during the working day.

  • Worth up to £220 per month (£10 per working day), meal cards would give workers a significant boost every month.
  • Our independent economic analysis found that this would boost the food purchasing power of low income households by 58%, alleviating stress for families facing reduced food budgets.
  • Helping workers eat well can improve physical and mental health.
  • Boosting workers’ food purchasing power makes it easier for people to eat regular and balanced meals, helping them to feel energised and supporting their health in the long-term.

Supporting employers

Recruiting top talent is tough. Meal cards would provide a new way for employers to enhance their compensation packages.

  • 80% of UK businesses are struggling to recruit new employees.
  • There are now more than 1.1 million unfilled job vacancies in the UK.

Meal cards can help boost productivity, by encouraging healthy eating habits and ensuring workers can access nutrition during the working day.

  • Our research found that three-quarters (74%) of workers would prioritise healthier food options if given a meal card,
  • Employees who are in good health are less likely to need time off work and are likely to be more productive.
  • There is clear evidence that eating regular and quality meals plays a significant role in supporting health and wellbeing.
  • Government guidance already suggests employers should encourage healthy behaviours in the workplace such as eating well. Meal cards would help to enable this.

A growing number of employers already support the scheme and understand its benefits.

  • Our survey of 1,200 employers (January 2023) found that 3 in 5 business (60%) decision-makers across a range of sectors would like to see the rules change so they could offer the meal card to their employees. 
  • Similar proportions agree the meal card would provide a range of benefits, including ensuring employees eat well, helping employees cope with rising costs, forging closer links with local hospitality businesses, and helping to recruit and retain employees.
  • Meal Cards would provide immediate real-term support for workers across the country, putting British businesses at the heart of a new deal for workers.

Supporting the UK

Introducing meal cards in the UK would be a small policy change with a big impact on workers, businesses, and growing the UK economy.

  • The scheme would unlock an additional £6.3 billion for the country’s economy at a time when the Government is looking for solutions to fight the cost of living crisis.
  • The Treasury would receive a total net addition of almost £2.1bn in incremental employment and corporation taxes.

Businesses would benefit from a rise in consumer spending power, helping to create new jobs for thousands of people and revitalising towns and cities

  • The scheme would create 288,000 jobs and boost revenue for the hospitality sector by an average of £9bn per year.
  • Local restaurants would see an increased turnover of around 17-18%.
  • New jobs and injections of cash into big and small businesses will help to revitalise town and city centres.

The scheme would create a knock-on effect of social benefits, positively impacting the health and employment status of the nation.

  • An uplift in employee purchasing power would improve employee welling and engagement.
  • As a means to access a healthy, nutritious meal, the scheme will boost labour productivity and reduce absenteeism from employment.
  • The wider impacts of this would be felt in the lower costs to the healthcare system and lower levels of national unemployment.

Supporting Local Food Providers

Meal cards would provide a crucial boost for the hospitality sector, supporting restaurants and food providers and protecting the vibrancy of local high streets.

  • Spiralling energy bills are creating immense pressure for local restaurants and food providers. Meanwhile, the cost of living crisis threatens to undermine demand in the sector, creating a perfect storm that could have devastating costs for hospitality businesses.
  • Meal cards would create additional demand in the sector, driving an average 18% increase in turnover for participating hospitality businesses.
  • Our research revealed that 70% of workers said they would eat out at local places more often if they had a meal card
  • By giving employees meal cards loaded with funds ring-fenced for use in restaurants and food providers, economic activity would be targeted at high streets and would help local communities thrive.
  • In turn, this would help to create 280,000 new jobs in the UK, and encourage better connections between businesses and their employees with local restaurants and wider local communities.

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