Fewer people are set to receive bonuses this year and those who do won’t be getting as much as they did last year, according to a preliminary poll for The Grocer’s annual salary survey.

Carried out last December by Croner Reward, the pay and benefits researcher and advisor, the poll presents a tantalising snapshot of pay and benefit conditions ahead of our third industry-wide survey, which will be published in the May 21 issue of The Grocer.

The poll suggests that 58% of employees in the food and drink sector received no bonus in 2004. Of those who did, 58% received less, 15% of respondents saying they were paid 1% to 4% of their salary and 12% of respondents 6% to 9%.

Junior employees did better than their senior counterparts, 60% receiving a higher bonus than in 2003 compared with 51% in older age groups. The picture contrasts sharply with that in 2003 when just two in five received no bonus (39%) and bonuses had increased on the previous year.

Croner Reward client services director, Vivienne Copeland says: “I’d expect 60% to 70% to get a bonus. The fact that a lot of people received no bonus, and of those that did many got less than last year, is not good.”

When it comes to basic pay packages, the outlook is slightly more encouraging. The poll reveals that food and drink employees saw an average 3% pay rise last year, consistent with the rate of inflation and increases seen in other industries.

Respondents based in the south of England fared better than their counterparts in the North and Midlands with an average 4% pay rise. A healthy 8% of respondents received a pay rise of more than 10%.

However, 21% had a pay rise of 2% or less and, providing further evidence employers are tightening their belts, 29% of respondents had not received a pay rise for more than a year. Copeland says: “Look at how many people have said they haven’t had a pay rise at all for that period. Too many people seem to have substantial gaps between payments. I’d expect the figure for those who have not received pay rises to be 5% to 10%, not 29%. It’s quite unusual.

“On the basis of this evidence, it looks as though employers are much more cautious.”

The signs are ominous, but a different picture may emerge when the full survey, which will provide information on basic pay, bonuses and benefits - including family-friendly policies - is carried out in the next few weeks.

Your input will be vital. So whether you are in retail, manufacturing or wholesale, please fill in and return the Croner questionnaire, which will be published in the January 29 issue of The Grocer and the February issue of MBR and can be downloaded from our web sites: thegrocer.co.uk and grocerjobs.co.uk.