Our Annual Salary Guide 2021 is out – agency salaries and bonuses take a big hit, and 2020 is a disastrous year for women

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Posted: Jul 2021

This is the 12th year of publishing our much-anticipated Annual Salary Guide for PR and Comms professionals – and what a year (and more) it has been. As 2020 saw millions of employees furloughed, made redundant, forced to take pay cuts or freezes, and the world adapt to a work from home model, the pandemic took employee compensation on a rollercoaster ride – leaving hopes of pay rises and juicy bonuses for many in its wake.

How did the pandemic affect salaries and bonuses in corporate communications?

The survey takes an in-depth look at salaries, bonuses and benefits, and is based on the responses of 400 corporate comms professionals, with data being checked against an additional 2000 database records over the Jan-Dec 2020 time period.

The findings from this survey are, unsurprisingly, like no other year; they reflect the economic turbulence the industry has experienced.

Some of the key findings on pay:

Salaries, bonuses and benefits have taken a hit across the board.

  • 9% of agency professionals reported a drop in salary, compared to 5% of in-house corporate comms professionals
  • More senior level professionals have faced pay freezes or taken pay cuts – 11% of senior level professionals were asked to take a pay cut compared to 8% of junior levels in-house; for agencies, the numbers are 31% vs 18%

On bonuses

In-house corporate communications teams have ridden the storm better than agencies.

  • Fewer bonuses were given in 2020 compared to the previous year (2019), and 8% of respondents reported that bonus schemes were cancelled in 2020
  • 64% of in-house professionals received a bonus compared to 58% of agency professionals
  • The average in-house bonus, on the other hand, is 17% (up from 14%). It’s certainly not all gloom and doom for in-house companies.
  • Agency bonuses have decreased – the average agency bonus is down 3% point from the previous year.


  • 54% of agency professionals who moved jobs were as a result of redundancy, compared to 20% of in-house professionals.

Benefits shift to focus on self-care

  • Both in-house and agencies increased their support for mental health and wellbeing provision with 55% of in-house professionals (up 9% on our last survey) and 33% of agency professionals (up 7%) now able to access this support

It’s safe to say it’s been a very challenging year for the agencies, and it’s going to take a lot of work to get back to where they were.

Women have not fared as well as men

  • 16% of women were asked to take a pay cut, compared to 12% of men
  • Fewer women received bonuses: 54% compared to 68% of men
  • Men reported a salary increase of 3.26%, compared to 2.96% for women
  • Over twice as many women (10%) have had their bonuses cancelled compared to men (4%) – once again, women have been hit harder financially.

These are just a few examples of some shocking statistics. Any positive steps that had been made towards closing the gender pay gap and fostering gender equality in the workplace seem to have been stamped out during the turbulent pandemic year.

Perhaps more than ever, employers must play a critical role in promoting and supporting the social, emotional and financial health of their employees.

As the COVID-19 crisis progresses towards the recover and reshape phase, many companies will need to look at new ways of addressing these needs.

Look out for more commentary in the coming weeks in our series of blog posts that will examine topics raised in the survey as we reveal more findings. Make sure you are signed up to our newsletter here.

We hope you find the information in the Salary Guide 2021 interesting and useful. Download your FREE guide here.

The Works Search a search consultancy specialising in PR and corporate communications. We have unrivalled matching abilities and known for finding the top 5% performers in the industry - the ones who deliver and make your reputation great. For more advice or market insights, do get in touch with us on 0207 903 9291 or email

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