Innovative scheme to support Stonewater colleagues


The team at Shakespeare Martineau has worked with Stonewater Housing for a number of years.

Stonewater is a registered provider of social and affordable housing with over 34,500 properties supporting 76,000 tenants and the team had to date supported them across a wide range of legal requirements.

The challenge

In March 2020, Stonewater Housing, along with most other businesses in the UK, instructed their non keyworker employees to work from home, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nobody at the time knew how long this situation would last and how it would impact business or employees.

It was quickly identified that working from home was a different experience for everyone and with that came concerns for people’s mental and financial wellbeing.

Fast forward to 2021 and the working landscape as we know it has shifted enormously and many businesses are now adopting a hybrid working model.

The challenge for Stonewater was how could they support their employees and encourage good mental health practices while also meeting their ambitions to reduce their carbon footprint.

Part of their solution was the desire to offer all their employees a loan to spend on their home working environment. For some this might mean new equipment, for others it may be the construction of an office in the garden.

Stonewater asked our advice on how best they could achieve this for their employees, as they were planning on launching it to their workforce within the month.

The solution

Shakespeare Martineau has a dedicated asset finance team who worked closely with Stonewater. Our advice was that it was achievable and could be done and although Stonewater had done an immense amount of great work on this project, from a regulatory and compliance perspective it was essential to ensure that any product launched was compliant with the regulatory landscape. The project was therefore more multifaceted in terms of legal requirements than first anticipated.

Financial loans and lending generally is a highly regulated sector so the team worked quickly to understand the objectives of the scheme and provide full guidance back to the Stonewater team ensuring they stayed on the right side of the law. There were many elements to consider such as: did Stonewater need to be regulated by the FCA, did their documentation meet the very stringent legal requirements of the Consumer Credit act and did the loan constitute credit broking? Finally what exemptions or other regulatory structures were available to assist Stonewater?

Taking all this into account the team was able to construct a product that met Stonewater’s goals and ensured they did not breach any regulations which could have resulted in an actual criminal offence and a disaster for the client.

At a glance

  • We worked quickly and efficiently to meet the client’s timescales
  • We quickly identified the regulatory minefield that the client could have found themselves in and developed a compliant and attractive offer for them to offer employee.
  • The scheme has been enormously successful so far with double the anticipated demand amongst employees.
  • This scheme is proving to be of real interest to other organisations as an employee benefit and as a way for employers to actively support mental health and a hybrid working model.

The results

  • Stonewater was able to launch its ground breaking innovative scheme to its employees in the confident knowledge that it was the best it could possibly be.
  • The advice we provided pulled together all the regulatory strands and ensured the product sat safely within all the rules of this heavily regulated landscape.
  • Take up of the scheme from employees has exceeded all expectations and is double the original anticipated demand.
  • The positive feedback from employees has been overwhelming.
  • Other employers, as a result, have been in touch to discuss how it might work for their organisations and we’re confident that it will find its way on the list of employee benefits in the future at many more organisations.