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Record wages for seasonal staff set to climb higher

Companies are paying record-high wages to secure seasonal staff this Christmas, yet may have to pay even more as vacancies lie open.

The average hourly rate for seasonal work is now £9.47 an hour, an increase of 9% on the last pre-COVID Christmas of 2019, when the rate was £8.69.

The figures, from research by job review site Glassdoor, show an increase in seasonal pay by 9% over the two years (an extra 78p per hour,) representing the highest pay rise seasonal staff have seen in years.

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Despite this, however, soaring costs of living have undercut the raise.

Laura Thomas, economist at Glassdoor, told HR magazine: “The year-over-year inflation rate (from October 2019 to October 2021) is 4.9%, which makes the real wage growth rate 3.9% – still a raise, but one that is undercut by rising inflation.”

This 3.9% real increase has not attracted enough staff to fill vacancies, as Glassdoor’s data suggests tens of thousands of temporary Christmas jobs remain unfilled. 

Thomas argued workers are now looking for benefits beyond higher pay. 

She said: “Higher pay is one way to attract staff, but far from the only one. 

"As our data shows, seasonal staff are becoming more interested in flexible work, which can mean spreading out mandatory evening and weekend shifts amongst staff members, or allowing them to pick shifts based on what works for them.”

Glassdoor research also found pay was the least important factor when it comes to employee job satisfaction.

She added: “A company’s culture and values, quality of senior leadership and access to career opportunities are the key drivers and have not been altered by the pandemic.”

Seasonal jobs, which are high-intensity and do not traditionally give much opportunity to further career opportunities, may not fit that brief.

While some workers may be more reluctant to fill seasonal roles, others simply are not able to.

Thomas told HR magazine that Brexit has been a significant factor in difficulties in finding seasonal workers.

“Although the government has made extra seasonal visas available this holiday season for HGV drivers and poultry farm workers, many other employers of seasonal workers do not have access to seasonal visas and can no longer use visa-free EU workers as in holiday seasons past.”

The Office for National Statistics research found one in four businesses struggling to fill their vacancies reported a lower number of EU applicants as a reason.

This number rose to 46% for the transport and storage sector.

Brexit, however, is not the only reason for the struggle in finding staff.

Thomas added: “Altogether, the data suggest that Brexit is playing a role, although it is far from the only one. Other factors, including the ageing of the workforce, have also driven shortages, especially in the hospitality or retail industries.

We expect these factors to continue to push up wages.”