Keep the pay rise. We want flexibility

2003

Almost half of all jobseekers in the UK would choose flexible working as a benefit option rather than perks such as a company car or gym membership, according to a new survey.

The online poll, carried out by recruitment website reed.co.uk with the Department of Trade and Industry's Work-Life Balance campaign, surveyed over 4,000 jobseekers.

Almost half the respondents - 46 per cent – chose flexible working as the benefit they would most look for in their next job, with only 10 per cent opting for a company car and 7 per cent choosing free gym membership.

A third of the respondents said that they would prefer the opportunity to work flexible hours rather than receive £1,000 more pay per year. And fewer than less than 20 per cent would be prepared to work much longer hours for more money.

The survey also found that 'Presenteeism' culture (staying long hours, despite having finished work for the day) is common in UK businesses. More than 80 per cent of all those surveyed said they had experienced a presenteeism culture with over one in three (31 per cent) stating that they had frequently felt it.

The poll comes on the eve of a New Year publicity campaign to raise awareness about the new family friendly employment rights, which start on 6 April 2003. The new rights - introduced by the government - mean more pay and leave for new mothers, fathers and adoptive parents. Maternity leave will be increased to 26 weeks' Ordinary Maternity Leave (paid) and 26 weeks' Additional Maternity Leave (unpaid). Standard statutory maternity pay (SMP) will increase to £100 a week. A new right to two weeks' paid paternity leave within eight weeks of the birth of a child or the placement of a child newly-placed for adoption. Payment will be at the same standard rate as SMP.

In addition, changes to National Insurance (NI) threshold will mean that smaller UK firms will be able to claim up to 105 per cent of the SMP they pay out. Employers will also have to seriously consider requests from parents with young or disabled children to work more flexibly.

Parents of children aged under six and disabled children aged under 18 will have the right to apply to work flexibly and their employers will have a duty to consider their requests seriously.

Six out of ten of the poll’s respondents said that they viewed work-life balance as an important factor in assessing a potential new job, with 77 per cent of parents with children under six saying it was an ‘important factor’ in whether they accepted a position. And this sentiment applies at all levels: nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of managers and directors said that work-life balance was an extremely important factor in deciding whether to apply for a new job

”This research is a real wake-up call for employers. Clearly many jobseekers think flexibility is the most important benefit of all. Too many organisations seem to be missing out on one of the most effective ways to attract top talent,” said James Reed of recruitment website reed.co.uk, who carried out the study.

Trade and Industry Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, launching a new helpline service - 08457 47 47 47 - to help both employers and parents get to grips with the changes, urged companies to take the message to heart:

”New Year is when many people start shopping for their next job, but increasingly people want more from work than the usual package.

”This poll shows that getting a better work-life balance is becoming much more important for all employees - men as much as women – and the competitive advantages business gains from offering flexible working are now well established,” she said.