Rising energy and food bills, stagnant wages and record-breaking levels of inflation are continuing to put pressure on consumers and businesses across the UK, while the outlook for the UK economy looks bleak.
The current cost-of-living crisis – which is seeing food prices rising to their highest level in years – means that households are feeling the squeeze on their income more than ever, while businesses are facing down the barrel of an impending recession.
At the same time, experts have warned inflation levels aren’t set to hit their peak until next year.
From store colleagues to distribution workers, many of those working within the world of retail are looking to the industry for support during what is proving to be an increasingly difficult time.
A staggering 75% of Usdaw members have told the trade union that they have already relied on unsecured borrowing to pay bills, with a further 40% having had to cut down on the amount of food they buy.
Recognising the need to step in, many of the UK’s leading grocery retailers have put in place support packages to help their colleagues navigate the crisis. From pay rises and bonuses to discounts and free food, here’s how supermarkets are supporting their staff through the worst economic downturn for decades.
Pay rises and bonuses
One of the most common contributions being offered by UK supermarket chains is increased pay and one-off bonuses. For the UK’s leading supermarket Tesco, a 5.8% hourly rate increase has been offered to its store and Customer Fulfilment Centre colleagues, bringing pay to £10.10, its biggest single-year investment in pay for its store colleagues in ten years.
For Sainsbury’s, 127,000 of its hourly paid retail, local fulfilment centre and customer service contact centre colleagues are set to see a 7.9% increase this year. With a total of £25 million invested into its support package, its colleagues will receive an autumn pay increase for the first time, bumping hourly rates from £10 to £10.25 and from £11.05 to £11.30 per hour in its London stores.
Aldi’s store assistants will receive a minimum of £10.50 per hour and £11.95 for those within the M25 from September, benefitting some 26,000 employees. A further 4,200 logistics colleagues will also be earning up to 9% more than they did in January, with a night premium payment rise from 20% to 25%.
At Big 4 grocer Asda, 120,000 of its shop floor colleagues will see their pay increased to £10.10 per hour from July, with the additional opportunity to receive a bonus of up to £400 at the end of this year and at Morrisons, store and manufacturing colleagues will see a minimum 2% increase to £10.20 from October, with an additional supplement of 85p for those working within the M25.
Full-time Waitrose Partners are set to receive a one-off cost of living payment of £500 alongside an increase in entry level pay which will benefit 70% of the retailers employees.
A spokesperson for Waitrose told Grocery Gazette: “We are forgoing profit by making choices based on the sort of business we are, led by our Purpose, ‘Working in Partnership for a happier world’, by helping our Partners, customers, communities and suppliers. We’ve also doubled our Financial Assistance Fund to help those who are facing particular difficulties.”
As well as adding pay rise top up’s to its support package, Tesco is increasing its employee Clubcard discount allowance by 50% across Tesco products and services that can help to keep bills down, while Asda staff are being offered a 10% discount in-store and online with an additional supplement for colleagues in its London stores.
At Iceland, its staff discount has increased from 10% to 15%, while Sainsbury’s employees are also set to see increased discounts during the run up to Christmas when budgets are likely to loosen and luxury gift items are as sought after as essential products.
Food and mealtime offerings
Looking to strengthen its range of free food products offered to colleagues in its back of store areas, Tesco employees will have access to breakfast items, pasta, noodle snacks, bread and spreads, fresh fruit, hot and cold drinks, as well as toiletries such as deodorant and sanitary products.
At Waitrose, its employees and seasonal temporary workers will be given free meals between 3 October and 6 January, while basic food items will also be available to colleagues in Sainsbury’s stores from the same week.
The Big 4 grocer‘s chief executive, Simon Roberts said: “Every day, I am hearing from colleagues who are really feeling the pressures of the rising cost of living. Our top priority is to support our customers and colleagues.
“We are proud of our track record on colleague pay and, with this latest package of an additional pay rise, free food at work and bigger colleague discounts, we are very focused on doing as much as we can to help our colleagues and their families through this autumn and winter.”
Do retail employees feel supported?
While retailers are providing support to colleagues through the cost-of-living crisis, according to Usdaw’s general secretary, Paddy Lillis, many are still struggling to cope with with food prices and energy bills.
He says: “Evidence from our survey of over 3,000 Usdaw members shows that three-quarters have been forced to borrow to pay bills and over half are struggling with repayments. 40% have to choose between heating and eating. Almost all will have to significantly reduce heating use or switch it off altogether to cope with these significant energy price increases.
Despite retailers initiatives, many of the trade union‘s members are also looking to the government for long-term support and “significant interventions” as Lillis says, “the scale of the financial challenges facing all workers is immense.”
“Even under their recently announced plan, energy prices will have still doubled in six months. Along with other prices sky-rocketing the cost of living is simply unaffordable for far too many workers.”
In looking to achieve this support, he adds: “Usdaw is campaigning for urgent Government action on the cost-of-living crisis and we back the TUC call for the date of the National Minimum Wage rate increases to be October 2022, instead of April 2023.
“Alongside this, we are seeking talks with all the employers we deal with to secure urgent assistance to tackle the hardship that many of our members are facing.”