Many companies in the UAE have withheld salary increases over the past few years and cut back on company benefits during the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research.

Among the 200 professionals polled by Tiger Recruitment recently, one in ten professionals said they haven’t had a pay hike in more than five years. Almost half said their salary has not increased for more than two years, while nine percent said it has been three to five years since they last had a pay rise.

About a quarter (25 percent) also reported experiencing a pay cut in 2020 amid the financial uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The human resources specialist firm shared these findings, as it highlighted the importance of offering attractive compensation and benefits in staff retention.

With the pandemic impacting just about everyone, and workers are no exception, the focus should not shift away from staff benefits, as they play a crucial role in talent attraction and retention, according the recruitment specialist.

“While offering competitive benefits can encourage the best candidates on the market to choose to work for a particular company, they also play an important role in lifting the morale and motivation of current employees,” the report said.

Benefits during pandemic

When it comes to dealing with the challenges posed by the outbreak, not all companies are the same.

In some businesses, the report noted, the pandemic has prompted employers to offer extra benefits to help their staff survive the pandemic. Some companies have offered housing, school and flight allowances to their employees throughout the challenging period.

Other positive examples include a daily allowance for workers to order food to their homes, in place of an on-site canteen or team lunch, and flexibility around holiday allowance, with some companies offering unlimited holiday, while others allow workers to roll their leave over to the next year.

Some businesses have also increased their staff bonuses, offering over six months’ salary in the form of a yearly bonus, despite any financial uncertainty they may face.

“However, we have also seen some employers in the private sector choosing to cap benefits in response to the financial challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report said.

“It’s essential that business leaders recognise the important part that benefits play in long-term staff retention. If they chose to take this step and cut benefits during this crucial time, they may be risking the longevity of workers’ tenure.”

Salary increase

As for salary increases, workers can still negotiate with employers. However, they need to "go above and beyond their jobs" to show their enthusiasm and skillset, according to Zahra Clark, head of Tiger Recruitment for Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

"At an appropriate time with their line manager, they could broach the subject and ask, 'I'd like to earn this salary within the next six to 12 months. Can we agree on some goals for projects or tasks that will justify this increase?' I also recommend that staff are well-informed and have completed their due diligence before having these conversations," Clark said.

It's also a good idea to do some research to find out the market rate for someone of their industry experience, skills and job title, she added.

"Find out if the business is doing well or not and ensure you time your request accordingly. Being armed with all the relevant information will put you in good stead to make your request," she said.

(Reporting by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Seban Scaria)

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