Employers make significant changes to pay and benefits as a result of COVID-19, finds REBA survey

Employers are continuing to firm-up significant changes to reward and employee benefits as the coronavirus crisis develops.  

Employers make significant changes to pay and benefits as a result of COVID-19, finds REBA survey

In REBA’s fourth survey related to the pandemic crisis, almost one in five (17.9%) respondents have implemented pay cuts, while there was evidence that employers are moving forward with their workforce planning. REBA’s third survey, carried out in May, found almost a quarter were still reviewing whether or not they needed to implement pay cuts, but this has now fallen to 13.4%.

When it comes to all-employee bonus schemes employers have responded in very different ways. While one in six (16.5%) respondents have decided to pay bonuses to non-executive staff as normal, a quarter (25.2%) have chosen not to proceed and just over a third (34.6%) are still reviewing what to do.

The picture for executive bonuses is equally mixed, with around one in eight (13.5%) choosing to proceed but well over a quarter (28.6%) opting to cancel.

There has, however, also been a slight move over the past month towards delaying and reducing executive bonuses. In REBA’s third survey, 1% of respondents had announced reductions to bonuses for executive staff. This has now jumped to almost one in 10.

Similarly, while half (50.9%) of employers had ruled out deferring executive bonuses last month, this figure has now dropped to just over two fifths (42.7%) – while the percentage announcing delays has grown from one in twenty (5.6%) to almost one in ten (8.9%).

The impact of the coronavirus crisis has seen many employers review their pay and bonuses strategies as well as adapt their employee benefits offerings to meet the new demands of employees working from home, increased concerns about mental and social health, as well as fears about physical health and safety.

REBA received 138 responses to the survey from its members, including organisations such as BT, Coca-Cola, Diageo, IHG, John Lewis Partnership, Kier Group, Manchester United Football Club, National Grid, National Trust, Ocado and TUI Group.

The survey revealed there has also been a dramatic shift in employee benefits take-up. Sizeable percentages of respondents reported increased usage of virtual GPs (37.8%), cycle-to-work schemes (43.4%) and bereavement and/or trauma counselling (32.3%) – all of which have clear links to the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on employees.

Employers have also taken steps to introduce specific benefits to help protect staff in the workplace, with almost half issuing employer-supplied face masks in response to the virus, while just over one in ten are offering COVID-19 diagnostic tests (11.8%) or COVID-19 antibody tests (10.2%) to staff.

For those no longer in the workplace, either due to being furloughed or because they are now based remotely, employers have taken steps to try and ensure they keep in touch and help staff continue to feel engaged and part of the company.

Nearly three quarters (74.0%) have increased their usage of social media apps, such as Slack, over the past few weeks, while even more employers have been making use of online classes (85.9%), team activities (90.8%) and company-wide communications (96.7%), such as radio shows and CEO videos, to help colleagues stay in touch.

The survey also investigated the use of insurance benefits, how annual leave is being affected and future plans for using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The impact of coronavirus has been immediate and far reaching. It is also clear that this crisis is not over. Many employers in REBA’s survey were still undecided about the action they would take with regard to pay, executive remuneration and even redundancies, highlighting that employers’ responses will continue to evolve as lockdown eases and things return to a new version of normality.

Download the full results from the REBA’s latest snap shot survey. You can also find the results from previous surveys in the reports section.

The author is Dawn Lewis, content editor at REBA.

This snapshot survey was conducted between 9 June and 17 June 2020 to gain fast-track insight into decisions about pay and benefits being taken by employers in response to the huge economic impact of coronavirus and COVID-19 on UK and global businesses.

In total, the businesses that responded to the survey represent more than half a million employees, across industry sectors including financial services, technology, retail and engineering. Around four fifths (79.7%) of respondents were from the private sector.


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