Human Resources News & Insights

’Tis the season for not giving: More employers cut holiday bonuses, perks

The days of company holiday parties and year-end bonuses may be coming to an end.

What used to be common and expected perks among companies of all sizes seem to be going the way of the company pension, at least in small businesses.

Only 29% of small business owners are planning to give bonuses this holiday season, according to the results of an American Express OPEN study, which interviewed 503 owners of companies with fewer than 100 employees.

That’s a far cry from the 54% of small businesses that planned to give end-of-year bonuses back in 2005.

In addition, only 35% of small businesses are expected to throw a holiday party. That’s the lowest in the 10 year history of the study.

But perhaps the most depressing statistic from the study is that only 15% of the owners interviewed said they plan to give raises during the holiday season. That’s less than half of the 33% that planned raises at this time of year back in 2005.

Employees shouldn’t expect much in the way of gifts, either. Fewer than 40% of small business owners said they plan to give employees gifts this season. That, too, is down from the 50% of employers that planned to do so back in 2005.

One glimmer of hope for employees

While the recession has clearly emptied the Christmas stockings for many employees, there are some signs (albeit small ones) that end-of-year perks and payouts could make a comeback if the economy recovers.

For many small businesses, 2011 has been kinder to them than 2010. And as a result, the bleak 2011 figures for end-of-year perks and payouts listed above are actually a bit rosier than they were last year.

Example: More employers plan to give bonuses this year than in 2010 (29% v. 25%), and about 1% more employers plan to give gifts and raises this year than last.


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  1. Yes, Holiday parties, year-end bonuses, and vacation time has all ended here. But so has morale, loyalty, and dedication. It’s tit for tat – except that the bosses all had raises – I hope they choke on their turkeys!

  2. Don’t worry, when moral plummets enough that it affects production and sales the board or directors will replace top management. But not without golden parachutes of course 🙂

  3. I wish there was some kind of ‘good’ explanation for why this is happening, or at least a nice way to say what we think the reason is. I have two jobs, one at a very profitable investment company and one at a small local dance studio. My boss at the dance studio has always been more giving around the holidays than the larger company. I’m sure it will be the same this year.

  4. What perks?, those haven’t happened since 2008 and this year no raise. But the cost of living keeps rising…..

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