Research shows over half of staff have never received a Christmas reward from their employer

New research shows a third (32%) of UK staff receive a Christmas reward or gift from their employer each year, yet over half (55%) claim to never to have received such Christmas cheer from their company. Thirteen percent said they ‘sometimes’ get a festive treat.

According to the research, commissioned by incentive and reward experts, Red Letter Days for Business, the proportion of staff receiving a gift at Christmas climbs with each salary band, with the highest-paid employees the most likely to receive one. As many as 88% earning over £100,000 a year do so, compared to 26% of those earning less than £40,000.

Employee age also appears to be a factor in gift giving. The 25-34-year-old age group are the most likely to benefit from employer largesse – 51% of them receive a gift. This falls to 39% for 35-44 year olds, while just one in five of under 25s and over 45s receive anything.

Analysed against engagement levels, the research reveals that 40% of highly engaged staff receive a Christmas gift. This drops to 29% of moderately engaged staff. Just 8% of those with very low engagement receive a gift.

“It’s vital employers say thank you at the end of the year,” says Bill Alexander, CEO at Red Letter Days for Business. “You want your staff to leave for the festive break on a positive and motivated note. Gaining drive and momentum in January is hard for any business after a break of festivities, but end the year with your staff on an upbeat note and they’ll be more likely to return ready to achieve great things.”

Employees at large organisations (more than 2,500 staff) are the least likely to receive a Christmas gift. One in five (20%) do compared to 38% in organisations with fewer than 250 staff.

Some employers appear to forget their part timers when it comes to being Santa: 34% of full time staff receive a gift and this drops to 24% of part timers.

The reward(s) or gift(s) employees would select if they had a choice     

Individual cash bonus — 60%
Voucher to spend on yourself — 30%
Team cash bonus — 16%
A meal/night out on the company — 18%
Team away day — 10%
Thank you letter/email/card from manager — 6%
Verbal thank you from your manager — 6%
Week/weekend in the UK with your team — 5%
Public recognition for work done — 5%
Training or development to help outside work — 3%
Training and development to help at work — 3%

Across all demographics and engagement levels the cash bonus is the top choice among the majority (60%) of respondents. However, vouchers hit the mark with 30% of employees, and are particularly popular among women (37% like the idea of a voucher to spend on themselves as opposed to 23% of men).

What is interesting to note: the appetite for individual cash bonuses gradually falls according to earnings, but the highest earners buck the trend. Over two thirds (68%) of those earning under £10,000 a year would like a cash bonus as a Christmas gift, falling with each income bracket until just 29% of those earning £75,000-£100,00 say they’d like to earn a cash bonus at Christmas.

However, it shoots up to 89% of those on incomes of over £100,000 a year.

This high earning group are also the most likely to opt for vouchers (47% do) and team away days (61% do). They are least likely to opt for a meal or night out on the company (just 5% do).

The age group least keen on the team cash bonus are the over 55s. Just 10% of them opted for this while 20% of 25-44 year olds did.

In turn, the 25-34 year olds are the group who most like a team day away – 28% do, but once people are over 45 this is a no-no (just 3% of this age group like team days out).

It is worth noting that although just 15% of highly engaged staff are up for a team day away, the appetite for this as a Christmas gift drops significantly among the less engaged.

“Choosing the right gift for employees can be hard, especially when working in a large organisation with a variety of ages and interests,” says Bill Alexander. “Cash bonuses are less impactful than a ‘meaningful reward’. The motivation gained from cash only lasts a short while as it’s often spent on household bills. Staff don’t like to talk about cash either. Employees will talk far more openly about a voucher or a night out, plus they’ll talk to their peers pre, during and post the event. Not only does this prolong the employee’s drive, it’ll motivate peers to work hard to receive the reward too.”

How employees receive their Christmas reward or gift

Manager personally hands it over — 50%
Distributed with payslip with no warning — 15%
Announced in mass internal email then distributed — 9%
Announced at company meeting, then distributed — 8%
Put on desk with a note — 5%
Handed out at Christmas party — 5%
Sent in the post with letter from manager/CEO — 4%
Sent in post without a letter — 2%

Highly engaged staff are far more likely (61%) to say that their manager hands a Christmas gift to them personally. This drops to 36% among staff with low or very low engagement.

These staff with poor engagement are three times more likely to find their gift on their desk with a note (13%) than those with high engagement (4%).

Among the highest earners, almost all (95%) receive their gift personally from their boss.

Sign up to our newsletters

Receive news and guidance on a range of HR issues direct to your inbox

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

“It shocks me to see that so many employees receive rewards without any personal communication. A thank you from an immediate boss or the CEO is one of the most rewarding things a company can do,” says Bill Alexander. “Low engaged staff are never going to become more engaged if they’re ignored by management. Recognition is a key motivator – a simple, personal thank you should never be underestimated.”

Where in the UK are the best places for staff Christmas gifts and rewards?

  • Employees in the East Midlands are the most likely to receive Christmas gifts from work – 58% do – followed by employees in the North East where 46% do.
  • Employees in Yorkshire are least likely to receive such gifts, just 20% do.
  • East Midlands staff are also the most likely to opt for cash bonuses (77% do), team cash bonuses (20% do), vouchers (38% do) and team away days (37% do).
  • Employees in East/East Anglia are the most keen on a meal/night out with the company (26% do).
  • Londoners are the group most likely to opt for a week/weekend away with their team (10% like this).