The National Restaurant Association reports that hospitality industry workers are now earning an average of $19.57 per hour, a 13% increase from a year ago, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average hourly wage for full-time retail sales staff in the U.S. is $13 as of January 27, 2022. However, the range typically falls between $11 and $17 — an increase from the pre-pandemic rate of $7.25 an hour, which mirrored the federal minimum wage.
Even with wage increases, recruiters are struggling to find candidates for hourly roles in restaurant and retail. As a result, employers are getting more creative with perks and benefits. A recent Washington Post article, “Restaurant workers are quitting in droves. This is how they are being lured back,” reported that in order to solve the talent shortage, “restaurant owners are offering shorter workweeks, life insurance, mental health services, college tuition and more paths to career advancement. They are giving out free Spotify subscriptions, adding nursing stations for lactating employees, and promising signing bonuses and free food to anyone off the street who fills out an application.”
Will Perks Be Enough to Lure Candidates Back to Retail & Restaurant Roles?
According to a recent survey of 1,200 restaurants by the Independent Restaurant Coalition, 84% of all restaurants reported raising wages. Nearly 40% have added paid sick leave for the first time, and more than 20% have added paid vacation during the pandemic. Additionally, restaurant and retail employers are focusing on how to make their roles attractive beyond wages and standard benefits.
Walmart, Amazon and Target are offering college tuition assistance to their employees. Sam’s Club is investing in employee development with its manager training program to encourage workers to develop long-term careers and “climb the ladder.”
The chain restaurant, Sweetgreen, now offers health, dental and vision benefits, 401k matching (even for part-time employees), five months paid parental leave and a food stipend.
Grocery chain Publix offers a variety of benefits for eligible associates. This includes holiday cash bonuses, tuition reimbursement, as well as training and mentoring opportunities. The employee-owned Southeastern retailer will offer paid leave to workers who are new parents starting this year.
According to Bloomberg, Apple increased its benefits package for retail store workers in the United States, beginning April 4. The changes applied to both full-time and part-time employees at the company’s 270 U.S. retail locations. Plus, the enhanced benefits include doubling paid sick days for both full-time and part-time workers. Full-time employees now have 12 paid sick days, which can be used for mental health reasons and taking family members to the doctor. For the first time, part-timers at Apple retail stores get as many as six paid vacation days, as well as paid parental leave, which will cover up to six weeks and will include the ability to gradually ramp up work time for the first four weeks back. Part-time workers also have access to discounted emergency backup care for children or elderly family members.
Offering benefits for part-time hourly workers might just be the key to solving the talent shortage crisis. It’s common for workers in the retail and restaurant industries to hold multiple part-time jobs, and being able to get paid leave and health benefits from one of those jobs is a monumental change.
Long before the pandemic, lack of affordable child care was a stressor for multiple workers, but the crisis has become even greater. As some parents still struggled to return to work, supermarket chain Hy-Vee announced plans to offer child care assistance to eligible employees in August of 2021. Best Buy, which offers backup child care to its employees through Care.com, began to provide $100 monthly reimbursements for tutors for children between the ages of 5 and 18. The retailer then expanded its paid leave program, giving workers up to six weeks of paid leave.
What is now referred to as “The Great Resignation” is having a lasting impact on the workforce and is putting increased pressure on employers to attract and retain the talent they need. While average hourly wages have been on the rise since the early days of the pandemic, companies are beginning to understand that salary isn’t the whole story when it comes to their workers’ needs. Addressing issues like childcare, health insurance and tuition, chips away at the disparity hourly workers have experienced well before dealing with COVID-19.