HALF of all Brits began 2019 with Christmas debt, with most estimating that they won’t pay it off until mid-May.
According to research from financial wellness organisation Wagestream, the long gap between December and January paydays means that many Brits are gig workers are the hardest hit, having racked up £100 more than the national average on credit over Christmas.
Wagestream has estimated that shift and gig workers put an average of £352 of festive spending on credit. The average amount of Christmas debt held by British workers is £252.30.
Workers in Leeds have the most debt, with an average of £307 per person, while Plymouth residents have the least, with £143 on average.
However, 89 per cent of vulnerable workers said that they would be less likely to start the New Year in debt if they could access their December wages before January.
Two thirds (66 per cent) of all workers said that they might be able to avoid getting into debt if they were able to access their earned income in real time, rather than waiting over half a month longer than usual for their January paycheck.
“The data makes clear that staff want more certainty and more financial flexibility from their employers,” said Peter Briffett, chief executive and co-founder of Wagestream.
“This is a huge opportunity for British businesses: taking a proactive role in improving financial literacy and extending the types of benefits and flexibility workers really want, will transform our productivity as an economy and make work, work better for Brits.”
Wagestream and the Money Charity have warned that vulnerable shift, gig and freelance workers risk being targeted by “predatory, high-interest credit providers” which can leave borrowers facing higher repayments over a longer period of time.
As it stands, the average debt-ridden worker believes that they won’t be back in the black until 15 May.
“Being on top of your money means you are more in control of your life; it has a huge impact on your day-to-day wellbeing, including productivity at work,” said Erik Porter, head of adult & industry programmes at The Money Charity.
“It’s concerning to see such anxiety over the cost of Christmas lasting well into the New Year – especially with vulnerable employees hardest hit.
“But these findings offer businesses a valuable chance to better understand their workforce and begin offering the types of flexibility and benefits that will really help the British workforce better manage their money over the festive period.”