Amazon offers sign-on bonuses to attract 20,000 UK temporary staff ahead of Christmas

Job vacancies in Britain hit more than 1 million as effects of Covid-19 and Brexit cause chronic labour shortage

Employees process customer orders ahead of shipping at an Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center in Peterborough, U.K., on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. The online retail giant needs smart engineers to help expand its cloud computing division, automate warehouses and develop new gadgets like the voice activated Echo speaker. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Amazon has said it will pay bonuses to attract temporary staff in the UK as it looks to recruit 20,000 seasonal workers ahead of the busy festive period.

The world’s biggest online retailer will offer one-off payments to beat the competition from other employers in regions where there is high demand for labour. Those willing to work nights will also receive extra pay.

The move comes as the country is facing chronic staff shortages due to a combined effect of the Covid-19 crisis and Brexit, which saw many foreign workers leave.

Britain has record job vacancies at more than one million, while the unemployment rate stands at 4.6 per cent, down from a pandemic peak of 5.2 per cent at the end of last year. A significant shortage of lorry drivers has left supermarket shelves empty and fuel supply issues have seen long queues of motorists at petrol stations.

Amazon’s latest bonus scheme follows on from the retailer’s £1,000 "golden hellos" unveiled in August to attract new warehouse workers as it battled to overcome the combined pressures of the UK’s recruitment crisis and boom in online shopping.

Alongside the joining bonuses, the world’s fourth most valuable company was offering full-time and contract workers immediate starts, flexible hours and pay of up to £11.10 an hour for daytime shifts, doubling to £22.20 an hour for overtime.

For the first time, Amazon will now offer a similar sign-on bonus for seasonal workers, although it did not specify in which areas bonuses may be paid.

Britain’s shortage of workers has led to delivery delays, with fashion retailer Next and grocer Iceland among companies talking of potential pre-Christmas disruption.

With the furlough scheme, the government’s main job support programme, ending on Thursday, more workers are expected to enter the market.

About 12 million people have been on furlough, with some one million workers still supported by the scheme, which cost the government almost £70bn.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said any hope the end of the furlough scheme might be the magic wand to solve the supply chain crisis is likely to be wishful thinking.

‘’With long queues at forecourts, gaping holes on shelves, and a million vacancies to fill, the labour crunch risks squeezing the life out of the economic recovery. That’s led to a mini flight out of sterling this week, as worries about slowing growth unfold, amid a sea of rising prices," Ms Streeter said.

“We are likely to be facing a rash of redundancies, and the increase in the number of available workers might ease some of the hiring issues, but there is likely to be a big mismatch of skills and experience between those ejected onto the jobseekers heap and the positions available”

Amazon's latest recruitment initiative will involve hiring 20,000 temporary staff across its UK network of warehouses and delivery centres in the run up to Christmas.

Pay for the temporary roles starts at a minimum of £10 per hour, rising to £11.10.

The company has been expanding rapidly across the globe, including in the UK, where it said it had already recruited 10,000 people this year.

Updated: September 30th 2021, 9:55 AM
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