Reg Warkentin, Chamber policy and advocacy manager, says holiday bonuses are a huge retention tool for businesses. (Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff)

Holiday bonuses not common in Central Alberta: Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce

If you don’t get a Christmas bonus this year, you’re not alone.

Holiday bonuses are not too common in Central Alberta, according to the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce.

Reg Warkentin, the chamber’s policy and advocacy manager, said a minority of the business body’s members distribute holiday bonuses.

“Given the economic circumstances we see ourselves in, I think it’s safe to say it’s not a widely used tool right now.

“Any type of bonus is going to be a function of the economy,” said Warkentin. “When things are good and employment is high, I think you’re more likely to see those things.

“But as long as things remain subdued and we have high unemployment, it’s just not a very common retention tool.”

Warkentin said holiday bonuses became less common in Central Alberta around 2014, “when things started to slow down in the oil sector.

“That’s always been the … driver of wealth and economic activity in our region,” he said.

“As long as we have a subdued oil and gas sector, there’s not a lot of money floating around for bonuses.”

Warkentin said hopefully, more businesses will participate in holiday bonuses when the economy fully recovers.

“In terms of employee retention, it’s a huge tool. But when we’re with seven-plus per cent unemployment rate … it’s not quite the same tool it used to be.

“I think a lot of people are just happy to still have their job,” he said.

The City of Red Deer does not provide bonuses for employees at the holidays.

Greg LeBlanc, senior human resources adviser with the city, has been a city employee for more than three decades. He said employees haven’t received a bonus at Christmastime since he’s been with the city.

The Town of Stettler recently decided to increase its holiday bonuses for employees. Staff members will receive $350 – which must be used at Stettler and district businesses participating in the Heart of Alberta Dollars program.

Full-time employees have received $325 through the program each year since 2013. Christmas bonuses through the program began in 2007, when employees received $250.

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