LONDON (Reuters) – Employers in the United Kingdom expected employees’ pay to be subdued in 2020 even before the coronavirus outbreak put British businesses in jeopardy, a survey of private sector employers conducted in January and February showed.

The median annual pay rise offered to staff in the three months to February rose slightly to 2.3% from 2.1% in the three months to January, human resources data provider XpertHR said.

Employers in the private sector said they expected to make a median 2% pay award during 2020 – the lowest pay rises since 2017.

“Current events across the globe can only serve to worsen what was already a fairly subdued picture of pay awards for the coming year,” said Sheila Attwood, XpertHR pay and benefits editor.

On Tuesday, Britain announced a 330 billion-pound lifeline of loan guarantees and a further 20 billion pounds in tax cuts, grants and other help for businesses facing the risk of collapse from the spread of coronavirus.

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