BT to give £1,500 Covid bonus to almost 60,000 frontline staff

Almost 60,000 frontline workers at BT will receive a special bonus of £1,500 from the company in recognition of their work during the coronavirus pandemic.

The telecoms group said that it would give 59,000 of its staff a £1,000 cash bonus, which they will receive in June.

In addition, the workers, who include engineer and customer service centre staff, will receive a further £500 in shares, which will be awarded after three years as part of the employee share scheme.

The bonus award will cost BT about £110m, and the company said the payments represent about 5% of the average employee’s salary.

BT’s chief executive, Philip Jansen, praised the workers who have kept its customers connected during the Covid-19 crisis, millions of whom have spent the last year working from home.

“BT has made a massive contribution to the national cause over the past year: we’ve supported the NHS, families and businesses, and avoided the use of redundancy or furlough in our response to the pandemic,” Jansen said.

“Our frontline colleagues and key workers have been true heroes, keeping everyone connected in this most difficult time.”

The special bonus is the second time BT has announced additional payments for its staff during the pandemic. The group previously made a £500 share award to all of its 100,000 staff in June 2020.

The new bonus announcement comes amid a pay freeze at BT, and the threat of the first national strike at the company since 1987 over a row about planned job cuts and site closures.

BT wants to accelerate the shift to fibre broadband and 5G networks, and has also discussed the possibility of selling a stake in its Openreach broadband infrastructure arm.

The firm lost its chairman earlier in March when Jan du Plessis unexpectedly resigned amid claims of a boardroom rift between him and Jansen over the pace of change at the group.

Workers at the Communication Workers Union, which represents 45,000 BT staff, are expected to vote on strike action in the coming weeks over what the union believes are BT’s plans to close hundreds of sites and concentrate the majority of its operations at 30 key locations.

The ballot, which covers workers at BT, the mobile network EE and the subsidiary Openreach, which controls most of the UK’s broadband network, could lead to walkouts in late spring if it is passed, when millions of people are still expected to be working from their homes.

“We believe our members deserve this for all their hard work over the past year but this is not a resolution to the 2021 pay negotiations,” said a spokesman for the CWU. “We know our members will not be bought off. What is vital now is that we redouble our efforts to win the industrial action ballot and deliver an agreement on job security.”