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Do people prefer benefits or a higher salary? | The Audit Lab
2002
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Does the UK prefer a higher salary or better benefits?

Does the UK prefer a higher salary or better benefits?

If someone came to you and offered you a brand new job, what would tempt you more: a higher salary or better benefits?

The choice may be obvious to some, but to others it takes a little more thinking. Here at The Audit Lab, we wanted to know what the UK thought. So we asked the question ‘When looking for a new job, which is most important to you; higher salary or better benefits?’

Here’s how the people responded.

Jump to your own region here:

UK-wide

As you can see from the image below, almost every region in the UK favoured a higher salary over better benefits in their job. The two exceptions were the North East – who almost unanimously chose perks – and (perhaps most surprisingly) the Big Smoke.

Overall this data surprised us! We assumed more people would place a value on better benefits, given how much the spotlight has been focused on having a good work-life balance over the years. London was the biggest surprise of all; given the cost of living down there, we would have assumed a swing towards salary.

Now that we know that the majority of the UK would prefer a higher salary, let’s take a dive into each individual region to see what the people think.

South West

51% – Higher salary

49% – Better benefits

As you can see, it’s pretty much an even split for the South West! Let’s take a look at what people have to say when it’s broken down by gender…

South West – by gender

A clear divide between the sexes. Women were more likely to want better benefits in a job compared to men, who much preferred to take home a bigger paycheque. 

Could that be due to women shouldering more of the childcare? Quite possibly! Businesses certainly shouldn’t shy away from hiring working mums – in fact, we’d actively encourage them to attract working mums to their company – but is this a big clue to what women want more of when it comes to returning to work?

Emma-Louise, director of Bournemouth Bloggers, certainly finds the perk of working from home helps with caring for her little ones: “For me it is more about the flexible working conditions than a higher salary (although both would be nice)! I am a mum of three, with my own business and working part time alongside this. 

I currently work part time hours, 9.30-2.30 Monday -Thursday but have been working from home during those times whilst in lockdown. I am now starting to return to the office, but have found the added flexibility of being able to do my work from home a real benefit for me, personally.”

South West – by age

The younger generations – like millennials and Gen Z – are often associated with leading the charge for more work perks and a better workplace culture, so it may come as no surprise that Gen Z in particular preferred to take home more benefits.

But what’s surprising is that 70% of boomers (55-to-64-year-olds) agreed with their younger counterparts.

As you can see, all other age groups preferred money in the bank.

South East

56% – Higher salary

44% – Better benefits

The South East has spoken! If you’re offering someone a job in this region then you may want to up your offer by a grand, or two.

Buzz Carter, SEO Manager at Essex-based DotcomBlinds, agrees with the majority: “Lots of the popular benefits I feel are double-edged swords, unlimited vacation days lead to employees taking less holiday and feeling bad about it, free breakfasts/dinners try encourage you to stay at work longer etc. So rather than having all these benefits that sound good but ultimately aren’t as enticing as they’re made out to be, I’d rather have some extra money in my pocket with the ability of choosing how I reward myself rather than someone picking a way to treat me.” 

South East – by gender

It seems like the sexes were united on this front. Both men and women said that they preferred to take home a bigger paycheque, with women taking the lead.

South East – by age

Just like with the sexes, it seems that all age groups were pretty much united on this front and would prefer more money at the end of the day. 

In fact, work perks didn’t have the majority in any age group.

London

48% – Higher salary

52% – Better benefits

London is the first region that we’ve encountered to choose better benefits over a higher salary, even if it is just by a tiny margin, and we must say that it comes as a surprise. Working in the capital is often seen as ‘career goals’; people dream of moving to the big city and building the perfect life for themselves. But it’s an expensive city, and money is needed to turn that dream into a reality. 

But it’s clear that the issue may not be so clear-cut for Londoners. When you look at this almost equal split between the two, does it become clear that the ‘work hustle’ culture of the Big Smoke is almost shouting out for a better work/life balance?

Natalie Montgomery, founder of Almara Consulting Group, gives her thoughts on why there’s such a split in London:

“Over the years, I’ve noticed the older staff get, the more importance they place on employee perks/benefits compared to giving these up in exchange for a higher salary. E.g. receiving discounts on childcare services and/or a private dental care plan in exchange for the monetary value of these benefits in the form of increased salary. 

“As a millennial with no children yet, and who is in generally good health, selecting a lot of company benefits as a substitute for their value in salary isn’t as important to me at all. With my “life stage” taken into account, coupled with being a Londoner (where the cost of living is of course the highest in the country!), opting for the higher salary in exchange for less staff perks is more suitable for my current lifestyle.”

London – by gender

Let’s see what the two sexes have to say about the matter.

The women of London were split firmly down the middle on this debate. Whereas, perhaps surprisingly, men slightly preferred benefits and perks over a higher salary. Are guys ready to slow down a bit?

London – by age

If you’re a business recruiting in London, then a balanced approach to salary and benefits is a must if we’re going off this data. Pretty much all age groups were divided on the issue.

But what we were most surprised by is the dramatic preference to better benefits and perks that we see in 55-to-64-year-olds.

Perhaps a realisation that there’s more to life than work?

East England

54% – Higher salary

46% – Better benefits

On the surface, the people of the East of England seem to be firmly in camp ‘money, please’. But let’s take a dive into the data and split it down according to gender and age.

East England – by gender

Men were the clear front-runners in the East of England when it came to preferring to bring home the bacon, with a whopping 60% preferring a higher salary compared to less than half of women. 

Women were more evenly split with a slight leaning towards better benefits. Just like with other regions, could this have something to do with women traditionally shouldering more of the childcare and needing that added flexibility?

East England – by age

If there’s one thing clear about recruiting in the East of England, it’s that you can’t rely on a high salary alone to sway the best candidates. Nor can you tempt them with benefits. You need to be offering the whole package to hire the best talent across the board. 

Wales

60% – Higher salary

40% – Better benefits

The Welsh aren’t messing around. With a clear 60% in favour of a higher salary over perks, it’s easy to say that people from Wales would much rather have cash in the bank then free parking or office fruit. 

Let’s break it down by the sexes and different age groups.

Wales – by gender

The people have spoken again! With a very similar outcome to the overall results, it’s clear that across the board both men and women are in favour of a higher salary over flexitime. Men lead the charge with an overwhelming 63% wanting salary, compared to a still high majority of 58% from the women.

Wales – by age

Will you just look at that majority in the 18-to-24-year-olds! More than three quarters of our youngest category wanted cash in the bank. What is surprising is that Gen Z and millennials – those who are perhaps more associated with perks and work/life balance – would prefer money in their pockets instead.

As you can see, the preference of benefits over salary increases gradually throughout the ages, but it only gains the majority amongst 55-t0-64-year-olds and even then dips back down once we hit the oldest category.

West Midlands

53% – Higher salary

47% – Better benefits


When it comes to the debate in the West Midlands, higher salary wins out again, but only just. Does this mean that it’s better to offer more of a balance in this region? Is that the only way to sway the best candidates? Let’s break it down by gender and age.

West Midlands – by gender

If you want to recruit the best female talent in the West Midlands, your best bet is to balance your offer between a high salary and decent benefits. 

Men, on the other hand, were slightly more likely to be swayed by numbers.

West Midlands – by age

The people of the West Midlands have spoken; it’s an almost even split across the board.


But there’s a surprising leap amongst Boomers (55-to-64-year-olds). Maybe a realisation that there’s life outside the office?

East Midlands

58% – Higher salary

42% – Better benefits

As opposed to their western counterparts, the people of the East Midlands are slightly more decisive in their preference of salary over perks.

East Midlands – by gender

There’s no doubt whatsoever from this data that both men and women in the East Midlands would prefer cash in the bank when it comes to job offers. Men much more so than women.

East Midlands – by age

It’s clear that if you want to attract the best talent in this region, you need to be offering the full package. That means a decent salary and perks for a better work/life balance. 

Yorkshire

60% – Higher salary

40% – Better benefits

There’s no umming and aahing in the minds of Yorkshire folk; it’s a clear win for higher salary in this debate. While the North isn’t always what springs to mind when you think of a high cost of living, perhaps its inhabitants are thinking to make the most of the price difference compared to the South? Enjoying the rewards they reap from hard work or keeping it tucked away for a rainy day. Or maybe retirement.

Yorkshire – by gender

If you want to recruit the best male and female talent in Yorkshire, then you need to put your money where your mouth is and add a little more to that salary offer. 

Yorkshire – by age

The numbers are all over the show when you break down the region of Yorkshire by age group. 


However, given the dramatic swing towards a higher salary in not one but two different age groups, it’s probably best to be slightly more generous with your job offers.

North East

46% – Higher salary

54% – Better benefits

There were only two regions that voted – on the whole – in favour of better work perks over a higher salary. London was one and the North East was the other. Even then, it’s still a tight majority!

North East – by gender

As we move further North, benefits and work perks start to become more important to both sexes. In the North East, women would rather have a better work/life balance than cash in the bank. Men are close behind them but still under the majority.

North East – by age

People across all age groups – bar those aged 65 years and older – were united in agreement that benefits and office perks were much more valuable than a salary.

The North East was the only region to almost unanimously choose benefits over salary.

North West

50% – Higher salary

50% – Better benefits

While other regions have presented a pretty even split between benefits and salary, the North West was firmly 50/50! Are Northerners simply undecided on the issue? Or is this clear indication that a ‘one or the other’ approach just isn’t going to work?

Our very own Claire Crompton (Co-founder and Director of Bolton Digital Marketing Agency, The Audit Lab) says she strives to provide a true balance for all her employees:


“Different people want different things out of their careers, and that goes for both direction and rewards. And while we can’t completely customise a package for everyone, what we aim to do is strike a perfect balance. Good work perks shouldn’t come at the price of a great salary that compensates our people for all the hard work they do. That’s why we offer pay reviews every six months and customised progression plans, with additional benefits such as working from home, 10 – 4 core working hours, and hangover days. There really is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach when it comes to someone’s career; it’s really about putting together the best all-round package.”

North West – by gender

An even balance between great perks and a decent salary is what’s going to entice men and women in the North West, if we’re going off these numbers. Be sure to put together the whole package if you’re recruiting here.

North West – by age

Almost all those in the North West were in agreement; they’d much prefer a balance of high salary and great perks when it comes to job offers. 


What’s surprising is the dramatic swing in favour of benefits when you ask those aged 65 and over. Perhaps it’s life experience telling them not to chase the money and instead focus on more time at home?

Scotland

54% – Higher salary

46% – Better benefits

A similar result from other regions, it seems that Scotland prefers to have a higher salary at the end of the month rather than a few more creature comforts. It’s only a marginal victory for salary, however, so perhaps – just like with other regions – a balanced approach is better?

Scotland – by gender

The numbers showed that Scottish women were evenly split between perks and salary.

On the other hand, men were more inclined towards a bigger paycheque.

Scotland – by age

The majority of age groups were pretty united across Scotland, with most favouring money in the bank.


However, the numbers also revealed that those aged 45 to 54 and 65 or over were united in their preference of better perks, by quite a dramatic swing!

Let’s round up…

We hope this research gives you an insight into the career aspirations of people all across the UK. If you’re an employer in one of these regions, maybe it gives you an idea of how to sway those top-notch candidates your way!

Which would you prefer? Let us know in the comments below!

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