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Golden hello: Signing bonuses soar, new recruits receiving up to £5k on first day

Jack Kennedy, UK Economist at global job site Indeed

The number of employers offering a signing bonus to new recruits has spiked by 75% in three months1, according to new research*.

With the number of job vacancies in the UK breaking through the one million mark for the first time on record in the three months to August2, many employers are offering increasingly generous incentives to recruit and retain staff.

Indeed’s data shows that competition to attract nurses is particularly intense, with some vacancies currently offering an instant £5,000 bonus to new recruits. Other employers are offering retention bonuses to staff who complete a certain period of service.

The enticements come after care sector employers had been offering as much as £10,000 as a welcome bonus. 

Further research found that the use of signing incentives is rising fastest among those recruiting gas engineers, pharmacists, drivers and social carers.

These incentives are being offered on top of rapidly rising wages, with previous research by Indeed showing that high demand for workers in the construction, transport, manufacturing and food industries is leading wage growth in those sectors to far outstrip that in the rest of the UK economy. 

Wages have risen fastest in the construction industry, soaring by 8.2% between February and August, while wages for driving jobs are up 7.6% and manufacturing roles by 5.2%. 

Overall the proportion of all vacancies offering a joining bonus remains modest at 0.51%, but the use of such generous incentives picked up rapidly over summer as employers in a wide range of sectors grappled with acute labour shortages. 

Gas engineers, pharmacists, drivers and social carers have seen the biggest increase in the use of signing bonuses on job postings. Bonus amounts vary, but in many cases run to several thousand pounds for certain hard-to-fill roles. 

Chemical engineering, a sector heavily reliant on trained gas engineers, had the highest share of postings offering a signing bonus in August, with some job ads offering incentives of up to £3,000.

Jack Kennedy, UK Economist at global job site Indeed, comments: “Worker shortages have become so endemic in some sectors that employers are having to work increasingly hard – and think imaginatively – to attract the staff they need. 

“Sectors with the biggest squeezes for workers have responded with well-above average pay increases but while some people’s heads have been turned, the supply of workers still isn’t keeping up with demand for workers. 

“Persistent bottlenecks mean that as well as hiking pay many employers are turning to signing bonuses that offer new staff a ‘golden hello’ in a bid to stand out to candidates and beat off competition.

“The problem for employers is that many people still aren’t urgently seeking work and this ratchets up the pressure even further to the point where some — especially employers in sectors with long-term labour shortages — may have little choice but to raise regular pay and think more about what people ultimately seek from work.”

*Research from Indeed

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