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Around a half (51%) of employees believe job security and flexibility (40%) are more important than salary (32%) when considering whether to remain at their current employer, according to a new report by Winckworth Sherwood, the leading full-service UK law firm. The research highlights a shift in the mindset of employees towards work following the widescale change in operational models and the economic impact of Covid-19. 

The research1, which included a survey2 conducted by YouGov involving over 1,000 employees and 500 HR decision makers, took place between January – February 2021 drawing from a wide range of sectors and business sizes across the UK. The survey was complemented by 19 in-depth interviews with HR decision makers and founders, along with opinions from five experts.

Focusing on ethical leadership, the research measured how employers, and importantly their employees, feel their organisations have responded since the pandemic first reached the UK’s shores in early 2020. Overall, both employers (78%) and employees (73%) were largely aligned in believing that employers have handled workplace matters well as a result of the pandemic. 

However, only around one third of employers surveyed (38%) felt they had ensured appropriate communication and engagement with employees during the pandemic, and less than a quarter (22%) had re-aligned executive pay in line with wider staff remuneration and job package cuts. Where employees’ pay packages or bonuses had taken a hit, worryingly, almost half (46%) of all employers had not been transparent about executive pay.

After a year of lockdowns, remote working and economic hardship, the top five improvements that employees said employers could make are firstly, ensuring greater communication and engagement; secondly, being more compassionate; thirdly, have more flexibility in working arrangements; fourthly, offer more wellbeing initiatives; and finally, to align executive pay awards where the rest of the workforce has had to take reduced remuneration packages.

Report co-author Louise Lawrence, Partner, in the Employment Team at Winckworth Sherwood, said: “Employers and employees alike have faced considerable challenges over the past twelve months, so it’s very encouraging to learn that the majority of employees still in work consider their employers to have handled the situation well.

“Our research shows that for the most part, employers have taken an ethical approach, rather than trying to push through a new agenda when employees are feeling insecure and potentially prepared to accept detrimental changes. However, it is clear that there remains room for improvement, particularly in relation to engagement and communication with employees.”

Report co-author, Harriet Calver, Senior Associate at Winckworth Sherwood, added: “Employees currently have an increased focus on job security and flexibility in working arrangements and we consider that job security will remain a key priority for employees for some time, given that economic recovery won’t be instant after the restrictions are lifted. Flexible working arrangements will also remain key as we believe there will be an expectation from employees that they can work more flexibly following a year of remote working during the pandemic. In the longer term, we expect to see a shift away from job security, as stability returns, and employees placing greater importance on the purpose, values and reputation of their employer.”