Ken Mulkearn | 25 Mar 2020

Pay reviews in a pandemic

Empty supermarket shelves

Economic priorities are being overtaken in many areas by the need to save lives. But in plenty of areas, work continues, by necessity or otherwise. And in some cases it is even expanding. In these circumstances, we will shortly be asking employers what they intend doing in respect of annual pay reviews. Will it be business as usual in this plague year? For firms in food and pharmaceutical retail, it most likely will be, since the sector is needed like never before. Allied activities such as distribution and warehousing could be similarly affected, with skilled warehouse staff joining drivers as roles that can suddenly command a premium. Vital public services might expect to see their pay rise as well.

But in other areas the impact of the virus is likely to be very different. Firms may decide to pay lower increases, or even freeze rates as they also reduce staff hours. Companies with prior commitments under long-term deals face a decision whether to honour these commitments, or postpone any increases until business returns to ‘normal’ once again. In some extreme cases, planned increases might be cancelled as workers are laid off. Whatever happens, our research will show what is happening to pay in one of the most unusual situations that human beings have ever faced. You can participate in our 'What happens to pay in a pandemic? survey' here and contribute to an understanding of pay’s response to CV19.