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3 min read

Earned Wage Access (EWA) 101

It should come as no surprise to learn that many employees are living paycheck to paycheck—two in five, to be exact. 84% of employees are also worrying about finances while at work.

Employees today are struggling to make ends meet and often taking out high-interest loans or getting dinged with everything from bank fees to late fees. It’s taking a toll and impacting their ability to do their best work.



This is where Earned Wage Access comes in.

Earned Wage Access represents another lever your business can pull to remain competitive in today’s market and improve your employee’s financial wellness.

But to do so, you need to understand exactly what it is and how it can benefit you and your team.

So, then, without further ado...


What is EWA?

EWA gives your employees access to funds they've already earned, but have not yet been paid due to the traditional pay cycle (e.g. bi-weekly or monthly).

With EWA, they’re free to access a percentage of the wages they’ve already earned whenever they want.


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EWA for Quick Service Restaurants (QSR)

QSRs are still facing labor shortages, with nearly 2 million unfilled restaurant job openings. 8 in 10 restaurant operators currently have job openings they say are difficult to fill.  

The hospitality industry is experiencing higher employee turnover rates than any other in the US. Leisure and hospitality are seeing a 5% average employee quit rate month over month in 2023, which is double other industry averages.

QSRs need a quick fix to stay competitive--and profitable. Thankfully, ZayZoon’s Earned Wage Access (EWA) can help.

ZayZoon lets employees access their earned wages on demand, which are automatically repaid through a payroll deduction on their next paycheck with no cost to their employer.


Acquire talent and improve employee retention

Employers who provide on-demand access to earned wages experience up to 2x more job applicants.

80% of employees would prefer to take a job with an employer that provides EWA over one that does not.

You want to take care of your employees by helping them be empowered at work and in their financial journey. And, when workers know you’ve got their back, they’ll give you their best.


McDonald’s case study

Art Alamo, Franchise Owner at McDonald’s was able to see a 57% improvement in retention in 15 months by offering ZayZoon’s EWA.

A lot of our employees used to ask for cash advances and we were on a biweekly pay schedule. We wanted to meet their demands and offer them pay on their own terms, especially since that’s something that clearly mattered to them. That's how we learnt about ZayZoon… My employees love it, 38% of them have used it.
- Art Alamo, Franchise Owner at McDonald’s


Read more about Art’s story with EWA.


EWA employer benefits across industries


Decrease employee financial stress

EWA gives employees much-needed flexibility. With early access to their earned wages before payday, they can meet unexpected expenses (without having to resort to predatory lenders). With EWA, employees have the flexibility to handle unexpected expenses.

  • Employees who use ZayZoon’s EWA report a 74% improvement in financial stress and 78% increase in motivation to perform at work.


Reduce hiring costs

ZayZoon businesses offering loan programs to employees have saved up to $8,000/year by providing access to earned wages instead.

Through research conducted by ZayZoon, employers who offer access to earned wages, see a 5% reduction in hiring costs, representing savings of about $19,000/year for a business of 200 FTE on average.


No more pay advances

Employees often look to their employer for help when they are struggling with their finances in the form of pay advances. As people operations teams usually have to process pay advances on their own, it can be very time-consuming and expensive to do.

Many employees also feel shame and embarrassment when asking for a pay advance as they have to disclose why they need an advance. With EWA, employees can access their wages on-demand without notifying their employer. This way, employees can get the funds they need and get back to work without worry.


Incentivize moving from paper checks

Paper checks are going the way of the dinosaur. And, for very good reason: paper checks are 10x more expensive than making payments digitally.

One way savvy business pros are getting their workforce off paper checks is by offering EWA. It incentivizes the transition while giving employees the option to get paid whenever and however, they want.

This is an effective strategy to get the employees who do have a bank account to choose direct deposit to receive their paychecks.




How much does Earned Wage Access cost?

We covered this in the previous section, but just in case the folks in the back missed it: EWA costs employers nothing.

You heard that right. Zilch.

However, there are fees for employees—$5 at most, to be exact, or about what it costs to use an ATM machine.

That said, ZayZoon does provide a couple free options for employees who want to get paid early.


Fee-free options

  • Prepaid ZayZoon Visa card: a digital card issued to employees almost instantly. Acts like a debit card, allowing employees to spend a preloaded balance with their earned wages. 

  • Gas Card: It has no fees, gives a 5% bonus on every fuel purchase, and includes an extra $5 on first payout—turning every trip to the pump into savings.

  • Instant Gift Cards: Through partnerships with some of the nation’s top merchants (think: Amazon, Instacart, Walmart, etc.) employees can receive their pay via Instant Gift Cards—with an added up to 25% savings.

ZayZoon: Earned Wage Access for small-to-midsize businesses 

Giving employees Earned Wage Access doesn't just promote better financial health—it can also make your business a better place to work. While EWA is still a relatively new benefit, market awareness is growing and employees are coming to expect it.


Curious to learn more about EWA or find out how Dominion Payroll and ZayZoon can help you? Get in touch with one of our experts to learn more today.