Christmas bonus providing lifeline for many younger workers during cost of living crisis – but preference is for ongoing financial support

Woman sitting at the table, checking her bills after buying everything for Christmas. Winter holidays shopping, expensive time of the year

Christmas bonuses have provided a lifeline for six in ten (58%) 18-34 year-olds as younger employees continue to struggle with rising living costs. This is according to new research from employee benefits technology platform, Zest.*

Younger employees are much more reliant on bonuses than older colleagues. Just 20% of employees aged over 55 admitted these annual rewards provided a financial lifeline.

However, of those who receive a Christmas bonus, six in ten (61%) younger employees would prefer year-round financial support such as workplace savings schemes or discount vouchers over a one-off Christmas bonus – compared to just a fifth (21%) of older employees.

Matt Russell, CEO at Zest, commented

“During Christmas bonus season, many employers will be looking to reward younger employees who may have struggled with rising costs over the last 12 months. Whilst one-off bonus payments are hugely welcome, employers should consider whether these short-term rewards are what employees want or need.

“Many younger employees value year-round financial support much higher than a bumper one-off payment just before Christmas. Employers need to ensure that they’re communicating with their employees to understand the most effective approach to reward and support all employees this Christmas and tailor this to the needs of specific groups across the workforce.

“In lieu of salary increases, enhanced employee benefits packages are the most effective approach to attract and retain talent in an extremely challenging financial climate.”

Employers struggling to raise salaries

More than six in ten (62%) of all employees would prefer a pay rise over a bonus. However, previous research from Zest shows that ongoing financial challenges are leading to a third (29%) of businesses admitting they’re unable to raise salaries. This points to increased importance being placed on benefits packages.

Half (46%) of all employees say the benefits on offer are the most important factor when considering a new role, rising to 57% amongst younger employees.

In fact, over half (51%) of employees would leave their job if another company offered a better benefits package. This rises to six in ten (62%) young people.

As well as helping employers to attract and retain talent, benefits packages can boost motivation and productivity amongst employees. Over half (53%) of all employees who responded to the survey say they are more motivated by their benefits package than a bonus.

*Findings of the report were conducted by independent research agency Opinium which surveyed 2,000 adults weighted to be nationally representative between 1st – 5th December 2023 and 500 HR decision makers between 7th and 12th June 2023.

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