Assessing the impact of earned wage access and workplace loans

Having an accessible savings buffer can protect people from problem debt and anxiety, and there is evidence that this also boosts productivity at work. But in the absence of savings, what are the options for people who need affordable access to money to bridge a gap, manage an unexpected expense or to access an opportunity?

A growing number of employers are considering the role that they might play in supporting the financial wellbeing of their employees in light of recent economic pressures. Workplaces can be a powerful channel for reaching people where they are, and employers can be trusted intermediaries for those who might otherwise not seek out solutions from the market directly. Payroll also provides an opportunity for setting up and automatically making payments, whether for saving or borrowing. Among employers’ options for supporting their employees are offering earned wage access (EWA) solutions, which allow employees to access some of the pay they have already earned before payday, and various kinds of loans that can be made available in the workplace.

Credit Unions have worked with employers for many years to provide access to loans via payroll. More recently there has been considerable fintech innovation in this space, with newer providers offering different packages of solutions including loans and the creation of earned wage access as an employee benefits category. Evidence of the relevance and effectiveness of these solutions is evolving and remains patchy. As a result, it can be difficult for employers to weigh up the different options available.

Our initial exploratory research sought to bring together the existing evidence that is available and to reflect the viewpoints of different stakeholders – those of low- and moderate-income employees themselves, employer decision-makers, providers and industry and consumer experts. By doing so, we’ve built an in-depth understanding of how earned wage access and workplace loans are used, what the benefits and risks are, how they compare to other financial wellbeing interventions offered through the workplace, and whether these two options are likely to be scalable across a significant proportion of the UK labour force.

Read our report: Bridging financial gaps for workers (PDF).

About our programme partner

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is a leading financial services firm based in the US with operations worldwide. JPMorgan Chase had $3.7 trillion in assets and $303 billion in stockholders’ equity as of 31 March 2023. It is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing and asset management. Under the J.P. Morgan and Chase brands, the firm serves millions of customers in the US and many of the world’s most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients. As part of the firm’s commitment to help drive a more inclusive economy, JPMorgan Chase works to advance careers and skills development, sustainability, community development, financial health and wealth creation, and small business growth and entrepreneurship. Information about JPMorgan Chase & Co. is available at 

Our research

Our research explored:

  • How are earned wage access and workplace loan solutions used, what are the risks and benefits of the approaches and how do they compare to other financial wellbeing interventions offered through the workplace?
  • What expectations do employees have that their employer will or should provide financial wellbeing or financial resilience support to them?
  • What attitudes do employees have towards EWA and workplace loans, and when and how would they be likely to use either option?
  • What views and experiences do employers bring to their decision-making around whether to offer EWA, loans and other financial wellbeing benefits?

The findings of our exploratory research will enable us to establish whether there’s merit in attempting a formal evaluation of one or both models in providing more inclusive and affordable access to money to employees via the workplace.

Our research involved:

  • a literature review
  • 20 employer and industry expert interviews
  • a private roundtable discussion with 15 stakeholders with a range of backgrounds
  • a series of interviews and discussion groups with 35 employees with lived experience of the challenges created by the rising cost of living.

Data collection was carried out in late 2022 and early 2023, a period during which inflation in the UK hovered around 9%.