How To Help A Homeless Employee

Written by Nicola Wylie
Last updated March 13, 2023

It’s a common misconception that people experiencing homelessness are unemployed. In fact, according to the Guardian, 25% of UK households facing homelessness are in employment. As the housing emergency rages on, accommodation issues could already be impacting your employees’ mental health and performance at work. Therefore, there’s no better time to find out how to help a homeless employee.

We’ve rounded up five actionable ways to support homeless employees or colleagues. 


The Current State Of Homelessness In The UK

Let’s start with some sobering statistics from the homeless charity Shelter

In the UK, 17% of workers have been sick in the past three years because of their housing issues. The stress and anxiety associated with homelessness are huge, with 1 in 5 people suffering from this issue in the UK.

Although more Brits than ever are experiencing housing problems, many people still believe that it wouldn’t affect them. Unfortunately, for most of us, the risk is real.

The skyrocketing cost of living coupled with declining or stagnant salaries means that many UK workers are getting closer and closer to the breadline. Indeed, data from Shelter revealed that 63% of renters don’t have any savings, leaving them at risk of homelessness if they lost their job. 

The bottom line is that homelessness doesn’t just affect the unemployed. Many workers in part-time or full-time employment are currently facing housing problems. 

Now let’s look at five ways to support them.


5 Tips On To Help A Homeless Employee

Experiencing housing issues is a sensitive subject and one that many workers would prefer to stay private. Despite homelessness rates rising in the UK, there’s still a stigma around the issue–especially in the workplace.

As a result, it can be difficult to know what to do if an employee is facing housing problems. Whether you’re an employer, manager, or concerned colleague, knowing how to broach the issue and support your coworker in the right way is essential.

To help you, we’ve put together 5 tips on how to support an employee experiencing homelessness.


1. Seek advice from homeless charities and organisations

Organisations, such as Shelter, offer expert advice and support for employers interested in supporting homeless employees. Its Housing Wellbeing programme starts by identifying the problems your employees are facing and the impact it’s having on them. 

Next, it will work with you to design a personalised support programme for your organisation (employee webinars, workshops, and internal training). 

Lastly, it will provide your team with the training, knowledge, and tools to support colleagues facing housing problems.

Shelter has a wealth of information on how employers can help homeless workers


2. Start an employee hardship fund

Employee hardship funds are an excellent way to help a homeless employee. If your organisation has the resources, an employee fund is a kitty of money set aside for employees in need. Staff members who are experiencing financial hardship and at risk of losing their homes can apply for funding.

For an employee fund to succeed, it needs a detailed policy. For example, there should be a maximum amount of financial aid per employee and clear eligibility criteria for funding. 

In addition, your HR and leadership teams should make sure that they communicate the fund to all staff members and direct them to the company policy.


3. Consider a payroll advance programme

As we’ve already seen, homelessness can happen suddenly. A marriage breaking down, illness, broken renting agreement, or other unforeseen expense is all it can take for a worker to find themselves without a place to live.

One way of supporting homeless employees that are struggling financially is to implement a payroll advance programme. This would allow staff members in need to receive an advance on a set number of payslips and cover unforeseen expenses. Of course, organisations that offer this benefit need to establish clear rules and policies. For example, this benefit is usually only available to employees working in the company for a set period.

In a nutshell, this type of initiative can give short-term support to workers who find themselves struggling due to unforeseen incidents or expenses. For instance, a colleague whose rented property has gone into foreclosure. It gives them an advance on a couple of months’ paychecks to get them back on their feet and into accommodation.



4. Partner with an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) 

If you suspect that employees in your organisation are suffering as a result of housing issues, consider partnering with an EAP like

An EAP is a valuable employee resource that supports workers suffering from a range of issues, such as depression, addiction, or family issues. Many EAPs also provide services and support for employees experiencing legal, financial, or housing issues.

Working with an EAP provides a support network for employees, improving their mental well-being.


5. Create a safe space

Knowing how to help homeless employees is challenging, but one of the best ways to support them is by creating a safe space. 

By fostering an inclusive work culture, your employees will feel more comfortable reaching out for help. Some of the common characteristics of an inclusive workplace include open communication, a diverse workforce, and training on common issues, such as workplace discrimination, unconscious bias, and how to handle difficult conversations.

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to arm HR teams and managers with the tools they need to learn how to help a homeless employee. This includes training, internal resources, and clear company policies on the matter. Well-trained staff will be better equipped to identify employees that are struggling, speak to them, and offer the best level of support.

Communication is an integral part of this. Therefore, employers should invest in communication and empathy training for leaders and HR teams. This will make workers feel more comfortable about confiding with your organisation if they’re experiencing housing issues.


Additional reading ? Understanding homelessness and how it affects employment


Key Takeaways: How To Help A Homeless Employee

Are you an employer of homeless workers? Or maybe one or more of your employees are currently experiencing homelessness. This can be a tough challenge for both the worker and the employer. Our experts at Refreshing a Career can give you advice on the best ways to support homeless employees. Here are just some of the services we offer:

Call 03458724501 or email to learn more about our bespoke packages. 

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Last Updated: Tuesday January 17 2023
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