Wartime pay – temporary staff | RBS Remembers

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Wartime pay – temporary staff

Cartoon by an anonymous employee of London County Westminster & Parr's Bank showing staff queuing to receive their wages, c.1918 © RBS


The banks took on thousands of temporary workers during the war years. They were paid weekly wages, and if a temporary clerk fell ill, he or she was expected to resign until fully recovered, at which point they could apply for readmission. Such a casual arrangement was important for the banks, which had committed to keeping permanent posts open for all the men who were away fighting. They didn’t want to find themselves permanently committed to paying more staff than they needed, or giving out sick pay for ill temporary staff, on top of the part-pay they were already providing for permanent staff in the army or navy.

Nevertheless, the banks needed to retain professional, numerate and accurate workers. With demand for labour outstripping supply, an unhappy employee could easily find another job elsewhere, and the banks didn't want to be training new temporary staff every few weeks. 

The cost of living rose rapidly during the war, so the most effective way the banks could retain staff was by increasing their wages. In the case of permanent staff, they were reluctant to commit to permanent increases they might regret later, but this was less of a concern with temporary staff, where the arrangements were usually informal. It was easier to grant increases on a case-by-case basis. In London County & Westminster Bank the official pay scale for women (introduced in 1916) offered 25 to 30 shillings a week, but by 1918 the wages actually being paid to female clerks ranged from 17/6 to 45 shillings, depending on the woman's job, age and experience.

Most banks exempted temporary staff from their main wartime bonus schemes, but made separate arrangements to top up their incomes. Ulster Bank paid for a ‘light lunch’ (or the cash equivalent) for female clerks. Later in the war, percentage bonuses equivalent to the ones payable to permanent staff were offered. In 1918, London County Westminster & Parr’s Bank introduced ‘service pay’ for temporary staff, worth one shilling a week for every completed year’s service, up to a maximum of 5 shillings. 

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