People huddled together looking down to the camera in the centre

Report: Young workers prefer ongoing financial support over Xmas bonus

Christmas bonuses are providing a lifeline for many younger workers during the cost of living crisis – but preference is actually for ongoing financial support.

  • Entering Christmas bonus season, six in ten (58%) workers aged 18-34 admit bonuses are a lifeline in the cost of living crisis
  • However, six in ten (61%) younger employees say they would actually prefer year-round financial support such as workplace savings schemes or discount vouchers over a one-off Christmas bonus
  • 62% of all employees would prefer a pay rise to a bonus – however, given financial constraints are making salary increases challenging employers are increasingly looking to offer generous and personalised benefits packages

Christmas bonuses provide a lifeline for six in ten (58%) 18-34 year-olds as younger employees continue to struggle with rising living costs, according to new research from employee benefits technology platform, Zest.*

Younger employees are much more reliant on bonuses than older colleagues as just 20% of employees aged over 55 admitted these annual rewards provided a financial lifeline.

However, of those who receive a Christmas bonus, six in ten (61%) younger employees would prefer year-round financial support such as workplace savings schemes or discount vouchers over a one-off Christmas bonus – compared to just a fifth (21%) of older employees.

Matt Russell, CEO at Zest, comments: “As we enter Christmas bonus season, many employers will be looking to reward younger employees who may have struggled with rising costs over the last 12 months. Whilst one-off bonus payments are hugely welcome, employers should consider whether these short-term rewards are what employees want or need.

“Many younger employees value year-round financial support much higher than a bumper one-off payment just before Christmas. Employers need to ensure that they’re communicating with their employees to understand the most effective approach to reward and support all employees this Christmas and tailor this to the needs of specific groups across the workforce.

“In lieu of salary increases, enhanced employee benefits packages are the most effective approach to attract and retain talent in an extremely challenging financial climate.”

Pay rises preferred over Christmas bonuses – with employers struggling to raise salaries many are investing in generous benefits packages to attract and retain talent

More than six in ten (62%) of all employees would prefer a pay rise over a bonus – however, given previous research from Zest shows that ongoing financial challenges are leading to a third (29%) of businesses admitting they’re unable to raise salaries, there is increased importance on benefits packages. Half (46%) of all employees say the benefits on offer are the most important factor when considering a new role, rising to 57% amongst younger employees.

In fact, over half (51%) of employees would leave their job if another company offered a better benefits package – again, this rises to six in ten (62%) young people.

Not only can benefit packages support employers to attract and retain talent, but they also boost motivation and productivity amongst employees – over half (53%) of all employees say they are more motivated by their benefits package than a bonus.

Zest is an employee benefits platform that offers flexible benefits services for a wide range of well-known businesses across the world, including Hargreaves Lansdown, Taylor Wimpey, ADP and Travis Perkins.

The business is currently serving over 700 clients across the UK, as employers increasingly look for ways to improve their offering and stand out against other employers in what is a competitive employee market. The platform provides a more personalised approach to benefits, offering a cost-effective solution to help employers to cater to the demands and needs of an increasingly varied workforce.

Want to improve your employee benefit offering for 2024? Read our full report here.


*Findings of the report were conducted by independent research agency Opinium which surveyed 2,000 adults weighted to be nationally representative between 1st – 5th December 2023 and 500 HR decision makers between 7th and 12th June 2023.

Ready to find out how we can Zestify your business?