The Works Search Salary Guide 2021 reports a fall in agency salaries and bonuses, and a disastrous year for women

A survey carried out by The Works Search, PR and Communications executive search consultants, took a close look at salaries, bonuses and benefits in their Annual Salary Guide 2021.
The Works Search checked over 2000 database records and polled 400 corporate comms professionals to share insights on their pay and company benefits, and how the pandemic has affected their roles.

The data and survey material were gathered during the calendar year 2020.

Over 60 per cent of respondents were women and the majority of all those surveyed were in the 31- to 39-year-old, or 40- to 55-year-old age brackets. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed had in-house roles and the remainder worked in agencies. Nearly 80 per cent worked in London and almost one in ten worked abroad.

Salaries are down

  • Average salary increases are down in 2020 on what The Works Search reported in the previous year – from 5.5% to 3%.  In response to the pandemic, companies have had to pare back salaries as the average salary increased by a flat £1,500.

In-house salaries and bonuses

  • 5% of in-house corporate comms professionals reported a drop in salary, compared to 9% of agency professionals
  • Comms Directors, Senior PR Managers and PR Officers have taken less of a salary hit than other levels
  • 64% of in-house professionals received a bonus.  Their bonuses also increased by 3%, while agency professionals suffered a 2% average decrease on the previous year
  • Heads of Media, Global Heads of Communications and Communications Directors took home the lion’s share of the bonuses
  • Global Heads of Communications received a healthy average bonus of 28%, closely followed by Communications Directors averaging a bonus of 25%

Agency salaries and bonuses

  • Agency professionals’ salaries have increased by £4,125 across the board compared with findings from the previous year; however, excluding CEO, MD, and Board Director/ Partner, the average salary has decreased by £1,600
  • Mid-level client handlers have been the hardest hit. An Associate Director’s average salary in 2019 was £73k, but it has dropped to £70k; a Senior Account Director’s salary average has dropped from £62k to £56k; Account Directors have also been hit, with their salaries dropping from £54k to £51k
  • Despite averages dropping, the largest salary increases have been reserved for Associate Directors, Senior Account Directors and Senior Account Executives
  • 31% of senior level professionals have faced pay freezes or taken pay cuts compared to 18% of their more junior colleagues
  • Agency professionals have taken a big hit when it comes to bonuses. The report found 58% had received a bonus, which was down 9% on the previous year.
  • Fewer bonuses were awarded at almost every agency level
  • 10% of agency professionals saw their bonuses cancelled, compared to 6% of those working in-house. Tough times in the agencies.

Company Benefits

The report found that companies have had to make significant changes to their benefits packages to adapt to the altered way of working in 2020.

  • In-house companies’ benefits have evolved to support employees’ health, with offerings such as mental health and wellbeing programmes (9% increased uptake on previous year); private health insurance provision (5% up); enhanced sick pay (6% up); cycle scheme (5% up)
  • More than half of in-house professionals (55%) are now offered mental health and wellbeing support
  • 2020 saw a similar shift in focus for agency benefits, with an increase in mental health and wellbeing programmes being offered to 33% of professionals, a big 13% leap since the previous year

Women have not fared as well as men

  • According to the report, men reported a salary increase of 3.26% compared to only 2.96% for women
  • Women also came off worse when it came to pay cuts, with 16% taking a salary cut compared to 12% men; 6.4% women were made redundant compared to 3.5% men
  • Over twice as many women (10%) have had their bonuses cancelled compared to men (4%).  Fewer women received bonuses: 54% compared to 68% men In summary, women have been hit harder financially.

Sarah Leembruggen, Managing Director at The Works Search, says:

“It’s been a turbulent time for corporate comms professionals.  Salaries, bonuses and benefits have been affected across the board.  Agency professionals have borne the brunt of the impact of the pandemic, and the lost revenue and uncertainty.  It has impacted their pay increases, bonuses, benefits and redundancy was the main reason for agency professionals moving jobs.  In-house comms professionals have been affected too, but nowhere near the extent of their agency counterparts making it feel like a ‘safer’ place to be. 

It’s disheartening to see just how badly women have fared, just when we had started to tiptoe towards closing the gender pay gap. Now it looks as though we have taken quite a few steps back.  Smaller pay increases, more pay cuts, more redundancies, and fewer bonuses to name just a few issues.  Employers needs to rethink their approach, especially towards their female employees, as the market starts to settle and move forward more confidently again.  It’s disgruntled employees who move jobs, which is far most costly than looking after your people in the first place.”

To download a copy of The Works Search Salary Guide 2021, click here.

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