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Pay rises and bonuses will be sparse for white-collar workers

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Just five per cent of white-collar professionals have been told they will receive their January bonus, despite working all of 2020, putting pressure on HR teams to provide alternative bonus incentives.

This could create tensions among those who were not furloughed last year and have already been told they will not receive a pay rise in 2021.

Additionally, 19% of white-collar workers said they have assumed that they will not receive their annual bonus. The same percentage said they had received official confirmation from their employer that their end-of-month January appraisals will not include their usual bonus package.

In spite of this, unions have stated that key white-collar workers, such as those in the NHS, deserve recognition in terms of pay.

According to the Independent, 14 health unions, representing around 1.3 million workers, have written to the prime minister warning him that coronavirus has left hospital staff feeling “demoralised and traumatised”.

The health unions said that if the government cared about NHS workers they would bring forward a wage increase for them.

Charlie Thompson, employment partner at Stewarts told HR magazine that employers are caught between a rock and a hard place.

He said: “Bumper bonuses are likely to go down very badly against a backdrop of economic gloom and a pandemic, especially where the business has taken on government support or made redundancies since March.

“However, many sectors have performed well in the last year, and employees who have worked extremely hard under challenging conditions will feel rightly aggrieved if their performance is not rewarded.”


Further reading

Pay freezes could put HR in a difficult position

Reward predictions for 2021

John Lewis cuts bonus to lowest level in decades


A third of workers stated that they felt optimistic about receiving their anticipated pay increase this year. Only 4% of companies however said they would be ‘very likely’ to offer previously promised pay increases.

Employee performance such as achieving objectives (63%) continued to be the leading determination for salary increases throughout 2020, the same as in 2019.

Industry and business performance was the second most popular incentive for a pay increase (38%), and level of business-critical requirement came third (25%).

Controversially, employee potential and going above and beyond during the pandemic (25%) came in as the fourth highest incentive for receiving a pay rise.

Thompson said: “Whilst it might seem prudent not to pay bonuses and to “wait and see”, employers leave themselves open not only to legal challenges from their staff but also raids from competitors who spy an opportunity to lure their top talent.”

The findings come from recruitment consultants Robert Walters annual 2021 Salary Survey.