Orka Pay launches early wage access for U.K. hourly workers

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Orka Technology Group has launched a new earned wage access tool called Orka Pay for hourly workers to gain access to their wages between pay periods.

The Manchester, U.K.-based online staff recruiting and technology startup is allowing workers to request a portion of their wages after completing a work shift but ahead of their normal payday. Orka has integrated Orka Pay into the employers’ time and attendance system through APIs which allows the program to automatically reconcile withdrawals with the employer on each payday. Workers request advanced pay through the Orka Pay smartphone app.

“The primary advantage is the financial freedom you provide your employees,” said Tom Pickersgill, CEO at Orka Technology Group, in a blog post. “We know times are tough at the moment for many, and Orka Pay gives workers a useful facility should they need it, ensuring they can avoid conventional high-interest loans when they do need instant access to their pay,”

Orka Technologies joins many companies providing early access to wages in what has become a major trend in the payments industry.

“The industry’s growth in the last few years has been nothing short of amazing and it’s a testament to employers’ responding to the needs of their employees needing faster access to their wages,” said Safwan Shah, co-founder and CEO of PayActiv, a U.S.-based rival speaking, in a separate interview on the state of the industry and not directly about Orka Pay. “The way to look at the industry’s solutions being offered is that early wage access is when someone gives you access to your paycheck a couple of days before the payroll pay date. Whereas earned wage access is when a solution allows you to access any wages you’ve earned, but have not yet been paid at any point during the payroll cycle.”

The technology has quickly spread during the coronavirus pandemic, as more workers struggle to make ends meet amid reduced hours and higher unemployment. Some companies, such as Earnin, have taken a direct-to-consumer model and circumvented the employer altogether.

Meanwhile, others have capitalized on the growing demand for food deliveries as restaurants remained closed or are operating on a reduced-hours basis. Branch has partnered with pizza chain Domino’s to provide daily tip and wage access to workers as the pizza giant seeks to hire 10,000 new workers to keep up with the pizza delivery boom.

Seeing a growth opportunity, HCM software provider Ceridian launched its own earned wage access tool called the Dayforce Wallet in May to capitalize on the more than 4 million workers it covers under its Dayforce time and attendance tool. Ceridian has launched the Dayforce Wallet in the U.S. with plans to release it in Canada, U.K., Australia and New Zealand in the future. The tool is unique in that it actually creates an early payday with taxes and deductions withdrawn.

In a separate interview this March, another U.S.-based rival, DailyPay, mentioned that it had seen early access to wages become an important recruitment tool. "It's been fascinating in how it has become a way to attract new talent," said Jeanniey Mullen, chief innovation and marketing officer at DailyPay.

All of this activity has also attracted the attention of VCs and financial firms. Recently, PayPal and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff invested in the startup Even, which delivers faster wage access to workers. Even is notable from its partnership with PayActiv in late 2017 to deliver earned wage access to Walmart associates. Since the launch of the Even-PayActiv partnership, they actively serve over 500,000 associates with EWA out of a population of 1.5 million.

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Payroll payments U.K.