Earned Wage Access
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Decibel and Wagestream Finds 9 in 10 Workers Want Flexible Pay

Almost 9 in 10 workers want their employer to remove the locked monthly pay cycle, according to the first-ever study on the impact of employers using fintech platforms to return to more flexible pay cycles.

The analysis was carried out by a group of leading financial charities, social impact research firm 60 Decibels, and charity-backed fintech service Wagestream.

Estimates suggest over 15 million workers now have Earned Wage Access (EWA), globally. Sometimes incorrectly referred to as an ‘advance’ or ‘early’ wage access, EWA sees employers return to offering staff flexible access to wages already earned and owed, throughout the month—typically within a broader financial wellbeing programme. EWA replaces the extended, locked pay cycle concept, invented in the 1960s as banking infrastructure evolved and processing fees became expensive for employers and banking providers.

With regulators in the United Kingdom and the United States publishing formal guidance recently on responsible EWA, a majority of employers are now planning or implementing a financial wellbeing policy (CIPD); 89% of workers now say they would prefer EWA over any alternative. Employers already offering EWA as part of a financial wellbeing policy include Walmart, Pizza Hut, Brewdog, JD Sports, Bupa, Virgin Care and Roadchef.

Now available online, the EWA Impact Assessment, H1 2021 is based on global benchmarks for financial inclusion, surveys of 2,200 UK workers, and analysis of over 1 million transactions among workers using Wagestream – whose financial wellbeing app includes an EWA feature alongside financial education, coaching, budgeting and savings features.

Findings on the usage of EWA included:

  • Workers typically choose to replicate weekly pay, accessing pay 1-3 times/mth

  • Use of EWA transfers is consistent, primarily for bills (33%) and groceries (21%)

  • Stress is reduced, for 77% of those using EWA

  • Financial confidence improves, with 72% feeling more in control of money

  • Budgeting improves, for 55%; only 2% struggled to adjust

  • Savings behaviours improve but are an area for further analysis and improvement

Emma Steele, Investment Director for the Fair by Design campaign, said: “It’s been known for some time that longer, locked pay cycles can lead to irregular spending patterns and liquidity problems for workers. This compounds other aspects of the Poverty Premium including an underlying lack of access to affordable credit and other core financial tools such as effective savings, insurance, access to housing, all of which are experienced by much of the working population: the result is that they can act as a debt trap. It’s encouraging to now see the voice of the employee being heard, and I hope the findings will help the wider industry work together with employers on removing that problem, and allowing pay to empower workers in lifting themselves out of these cycles into a positive financial journey.”


  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.

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