Sheng Siong’s huge bonuses ‘not the norm’ amid pandemic

Hazy economic outlook making firms more prudent, with some likely to cut salaries to save jobs: Analysts

Supermarket operator Sheng Siong offering up to 16 months' bonus to its employees appears to be an exception rather than the norm, say observers.

Many firms are likely to be more prudent in the next few years amid a highly uncertain economic outlook caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

Some companies in hospitality and aviation are likely to shave off bonuses or cut salaries in order to save jobs, the observers pointed out.

But sectors that are thriving in the pandemic, such as healthcare, logistics, e-commerce and technology, could still give out decent bonuses, they added.

Ms Linda Teo, country manager at ManpowerGroup Singapore, said bonuses given by firms in technology, logistics and pharmaceutical sectors, for instance, are likely to be better than others "due to strong demand for their service offerings and strong business outlook" during these uncertain times.


"Usually, the bonus amount can be inferred from the industry's growth for the year. The stronger the growth, the better the bonus is expected to be," she added.

"However, with the pandemic still ongoing, companies may choose to be more conservative in their bonus payout and reserve the cash in case the economy takes a turn for the worse."

Analysts contacted have not come across other employers paying out bonuses as generous as Sheng Siong's during this pandemic.

Mr Paul Heng, managing director of NeXT Career Consulting Group, said: "Even if there were companies that do this, they are in the minority, and only to a small number of exceptional employees."

Sheng Siong, in an internal staff memo sent out late last month, said its bonus was to recognise that it had "performed extremely well as compared with previous years" last year, on the back of elevated demand for its offerings due to the pandemic.

Total bonuses for staff, inclusive of the annual wage supplement, ranged from 4.68 months for eligible part-time staff to 15.72 months for those ranked as assistant managers and above.

Sheng Siong declined to comment when contacted.

Experts credited the firm's family-oriented culture, where staff share the rewards of their hard work for its performance.

Singapore Human Resources Institute president Low Peck Kem said it was no surprise that if the firm continued to do well, its staff could expect to collect generous bonuses.

But PeopleWorldwide Consulting managing director David Leong noted such bonuses "may not be repeatable", adding that others from the same sector may not follow suit: "Paying bonuses is discretionary and for Sheng Siong to go beyond the norm takes a great dose of generosity that can be unmatched."

Supermarkets contacted declined to reveal what kind of bonus they gave their staff but said their benefits are competitive.


FairPrice said it ensures welfare benefits "are in tandem with economic and market conditions".

It added: "Staff rewards will be commensurate with employees' contributions and efforts during this challenging period."

Dairy Farm Group, which runs Cold Storage and Giant, said its salary packages, which are commensurate with its business and individual performances, are regularly reviewed to ensure "they remain competitive by industry standards".

Sectors such as aerospace, hospitality and construction might not see bonuses this year due to lower demand and an uncertain outlook.

A large swathe of firms, from hotels and restaurants to airlines and aircraft overhaul facilities, are struggling to keep afloat, said Dr Leong.

Construction firms are also affected due to the lack of flow of workers, he added.

Singapore's civil servants did not receive any year-end bonus last year amid the economic fallout. There were also no mid-year bonuses paid out last year.

The observers urged firms to be prudent during this period.

Mr Heng said: "The pandemic is still prevalent globally, and no one really knows what to expect in the coming months and maybe years."