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Cost of Living: How we’re supporting students and employees

16 February 2023

Cost of Living: How we’re supporting students and employees

We are conscious of the impact the cost-of-living crisis is having on students, their families, and our colleagues and we are committed to providing support.

For students, we’re introducing a new package of measures, including a pilot partnership with Aldi to offer food vouchers to those most in need. For employees, a 10.1% annual pay increase has been awarded to our lowest-paid colleagues. We remain focused on doing the right thing.

Support for Students

Supporting students during the cost-of-living crisis is one of our top priorities. This month, we will pilot a scheme in partnership with Aldi supermarket.

Our ‘Financial Support to Stay’ pilot will see Aldi food vouchers distributed to students most in need of financial support, as decided by their university. Provision will be means-tested and Unite Students will work directly with universities to identify those students who qualify.

This pilot scheme will collaborate with four university partners: Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), Middlesex University, Birmingham City University and the University of Westminster.

In the short-term, vouchers will be provided to students on a one-off basis, but also on a longer-term basis to those who require on-going support.

If successful, we will look to roll the scheme out to our university partners across the country. We have initially set aside £250,000 for the scheme, which we will keep under review.

In addition, as part of the pilot, we’ll provide recipe options to help all students prepare healthy and affordable meals. We have also partnered with Blackbullion – the student financial experts – to offer all students free access to financial education, events, and budgeting tools.

Blackbullion’s support includes features on how to prepare for university, earning while studying, budgeting, and a search for students to access the grant funding options available to them. It can be accessed by all students and there will also be pop-up events to advise them on how to make the most of their money.

Richard Thornton, communications director at Aldi UK, said:

“We are delighted to be partnering with Unite Students on its pilot to support students in Liverpool, Birmingham and London.  We know that things are becoming more difficult for UK households and that’s why we’re more committed than ever to offering the lowest prices, whilst also doing whatever we can to further support customers.”

Yvonne Turnbull, director of student advice and wellbeing at Liverpool John Moores University, said:

“We are very pleased to be working with Unite Students, who are one of our current and longest standing accommodation partners, to help alleviate student hardship, at this challenging time.

“This support from Unite Students will be a valuable addition to the many initiatives that LJMU are currently working on and delivering to support our students through the cost-of-living crisis.”

Matthew Lawson, director of library & student support at Middlesex University, said:

“Middlesex University has provided a wide range of support and advice for our students during the cost-of-living crisis, including the Living Costs fund and free breakfasts and dinners. We are pleased to be working with Unite Students on its exciting new initiative.”

Vivi Friedgut, founder and Chief Executive of Blackbullion, said:

“I am delighted to be partnering with Unite Students and applaud their commitment to invest in their residents’ financial success, especially in the midst of this cost-of-living crisis.”

Recognising our Employees

We also recognise the cost-of-living challenges our employees are facing and have provided financial support.

Our frontline employees and lower earners have been prioritised with a 10.1% annual pay award in January 2023. Across the business, our average pay award this year was 8.6%, with 95% of our people receiving a pay award of 5% or more. Senior leaders received 3%.

Last year, we provided a one-off £500 advance payment to help with cost-of-living pressures. 90% of our employees received the payment, with the focus being on the lowest paid.

We are proud to be a Real Living Wage employer – the first in our sector – and we will continue to review where we can do more to support our people.

Richard Smith, Unite Students’ Chief Executive, said:

“We are acutely aware of the pressure the cost-of-living crisis may place on students and their families and are committed to providing value for money accommodation with all-inclusive bills. To support those most in need, we are now trialling a new package of measures, which includes providing food vouchers in partnership with Aldi.

“We are proud to be a Real Living Wage employer and recognise the cost-of-living challenges also facing our employees. We are committed to doing the right thing for our people, which is why we have announced a 10.1% annual pay award for our lowest-paid colleagues.”