In today’s day and age, we expect everything on demand, and we get things on demand. Think of the likes of Uber and Netflix…
So why don’t we get paid that way? After all, a day’s work is worth a day’s pay in our pockets. This is where earned wage access (EWA) fits in.
Rather than wait two weeks or a month to receive your pay, EWA gives employees instant access to a portion of their salary when they need it.
What is earned wage access?
Popular in the UK and US, earned wage access (EWA) allows workers to access their earned wages on an on-demand basis, as opposed to having to wait 2-4 weeks for their payday.
For example, John earns $50 an hour and is scheduled to work 100 hours this month. He usually gets paid once a month. After two weeks, John has worked 50 hours, earning himself $2,500. However, he has to wait till the end of the month to get his wages paid. With EWA, John can withdraw his earned wages at any time as he completes his work.
“Up until now, if Australians have needed extra money for an unexpected expense the only solutions they’ve had are payday loans, buy now pay later options or credit cards – and they are all putting people into debt,” said Steven Furman, CEO of earned wage access provider Paytime.
“One thing we can’t change in life is that there are always going to be unexpected expenses crop up no matter how good you are at budgeting.
“Earned wage access gives employees access to their own money to pay for these things so they don’t have to borrow it from somewhere else.”
Amid the rising cost of living crisis, EWA has become an increasingly attractive option for thousands of employees living paycheck to paycheck.
It’s important not to confuse EWA with credit cards, payday loans, and pay in advance apps. Because there is no lending involved - there are no interest rates, late fees, or credit checks.
“There’s a bit of confusion here about our product, we are not a pay-in-advance app or a payday loan. We’re actually the opposite as there’s nothing for a person to pay back,” Mr Furman said.
How does it work?
According to independent research commissioned by Paytime, 81% of Australians would like to access their earned pay before payday. But how does it actually work?
An earned wage access provider, such as Paytime, will partner with an employer to offer employees access to a percentage of earned income. This typically ranges from about 20-50% of their pay. To do this, the EWA provider will integrate into the employer's existing payroll software and HR management systems. From there, employees are able to track and access their pay whenever they need to via an app. If an employee chooses to withdraw money, they will receive it within minutes (if their bank supports OSKO payments) or within 24-48 hours otherwise.
Any withdrawals made by employees are then taken into account during payroll reconciliation.
Who uses earned wage access?
While EWA is still relatively new to Australia, US companies such as PayPal, Walmart, McDonalds, Uber, Hilton, and Unilever provide the feature to their employees. In fact, 80% of the Fortune 200 companies now offer EWA.
Here in Australia, companies such as McGrath Estate Agents, Supabarn supermarkets, and Aspen Pharmacare have been the first to jump on board the EWA train.
“Another myth about our product is that it’s only for lower income earners. We have many users on six figure salaries,” Mr Furman said.
“Some choose to access their wage early to pay down their mortgage faster, others use it to manage cash flow while waiting for company expense reimbursements or others use it to take advantage of investment opportunities.”
What are the benefits of earned wage access?
No matter whether you’re an employer or employee, there are certainly a number of benefits to enjoy with EWA.
Advantages for employers
As an employer, your employees are the backbone of your business.
It’s important to show your employees that you support, value, and respect them. Implementing a financial wellness program such as EWA could help you demonstrate exactly that.
Here are two ways EWA can benefit your business.
Increased productivity and a positive workplace environment
Have you ever heard of the phrase “a happy worker is a productive worker?”
If so, you’d know that an employee will be inclined to work harder if they feel appreciated, understood, and cared for at work.
By giving your employees the option of EWA, they may feel that you genuinely care about their financial wellbeing which in turn, can lead to higher productivity levels and efficiency.
Additionally, it could also promote a positive workplace environment.
Nobody wants to work in a negative environment. When employees are financially stressed, it can spill over into their attitudes at work which could potentially rub off on other employees.
By implementing an EWA solution, you may ease a lot of the financial stress that weighs on the minds of your employees which in turn, could make for a better work environment.
Advantages for employees
Prevents falling into debt
For people who live paycheck to paycheck and have little to no emergency fund, falling into debt is a common occurrence.
Earned wage access can help break the debt cycle by providing an employee with immediate access to funds that they have earned. It could allow them to better manage their finances, save money, plan ahead, and be prepared for unexpected bills. Therefore, employees may not need to take out a cash advancement or payday loan which typically have high interest rates and relatively short payback periods.
Creates a financial safety net
It’s not fun when an unexpected bill (such as a car accident or dental treatment) turns up on your doorstep, especially when you have no funds to pay for it.
For those that are struggling financially, EWA may make them feel more confident and secure when bills turn up at an inconvenient time, or cost more than initially thought.
Reduces financial stress
Although EWA does not stop bills from existing (we wish…), it does provide regular income which can enable you to better manage bills as they come. YOU are essentially in control of your earned wages - you decide when and how much you withdraw.
Due to the flexibility of EWA, you could be in a better financial state to budget and save money, thus reducing financial stress.
How much does it cost?
According to Paytime, there are several models an employer can choose to implement:
For employers, the first option is not having to pay for anything (it’s free), however it costs staff an ATM style fixed fee every time they withdraw their earned wage
The second option is where the employer chooses to cover the ATM style fee themselves and make it free for staff to make the withdrawals
The final option is sharing the ATM style cost between both parties (subsidy model)
How to get hold of earned wage access
Although, as an employee, you may be eager to have the option to withdraw money before your paycheck, it’s up to your employer to introduce it to staff.
However, PayTime has created a Paytition, where you can fill out a quick and easy form that allows them to inform your employer of EWA and its benefits.
Savings.com.au’s two cents
Earned wage access sets itself apart from payday loans.
There’s no interest charged, no monthly account keeping fees, and you aren’t borrowing any money because it’s all yours!
If your workplace ever offers EWA to employees, it’s important you don’t make a habit out of using it just because you don’t want to wait until payday to buy yourself something nice like the latest iPhone. The main purpose of EWA is to help Aussies reduce financial stress and have back-up options if unexpected bills were ever to arise.
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