While many companies globally have been forced to cut pay due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, some businesses are rewarding their frontline workers with salary increases.
The United Nations' International Labour Organisation estimated that nearly two out of five workers around the world are in sectors that are at risk of seeing a "drastic and devastating" reduction in working hours, wage cuts and layoffs. These include retail, manufacturing, transport and storage.
The coronavirus has now infected close to 1.5 million people worldwide, according to latest figures from Johns Hopkins University, forcing many countries to impose lockdown measures to slow its spread, including the temporary closure of non-essential businesses.
However, certain businesses within the affected sectors, such as grocery stores, are now considered essential to helping countries function during lockdown. Indeed, many are looking to hire more workers, given the need to restock shelves quickly, particularly in response to the panic buying seen in recent weeks.
As millions of others stay at home to protect themselves and others, these workers are putting themselves at a greater risk of exposure to the coronavirus by continuing to go to work.
And to recognize their efforts, some businesses are giving their affected staff pay raises.
In the U.K., British supermarket Marks & Spencer boosted pay for its frontline workers, such as shop assistants, by 15% from April 5 to May 31. Meanwhile, Sainsbury's supermarket is giving workers an additional payment worth 10% of the hours they have worked between March 8 until April 5.
It came as some British businesses, like retailers, have benefited from a suspension of business rates — a tax paid on commercial property. This holiday from the property tax was introduced last month by U.K. Finance Minister Rishi Sunak as part of a relief package, worth nearly $400 billion, to help businesses get through the coronavirus crisis.
In the telecoms sector, BT is bumping annual pay by 1.5% from July 1 for its front-line staff, such as engineers, as well as other non-managerial employees. This is lower than around the 3% salary increase employees received last year, but the company is still thought to be one of the few British businesses offering a raise at all.
Similarly, broadband provider Virgin Media raised staff salaries by an average 2.2% from April 1.
In Italy — the worst-hit country in Europe by the coronavirus, with over 17,500 deaths — pasta manufacturer Pastificio Rana is giving its 700 employees a 25% increase in pay for each day they work across five production sites in the country.
It is also giving staff an additional monthly allowance of 400 euros ($435) for childcare expenses.
In Spain, which has also been badly hit by the pandemic with the highest number of confirmed cases in Europe, supermarket Consum gave its workers a bonus totaling 3.8 million euros ($4.2 million) — an average of 283 euros per person — in March.