Money can't buy us love

Pay rise? No thanks. The majority of workers would happily take a salary cut to spend more time with loved ones, a study reveals
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The Independent Online

It has long been every worker's dream to be given a pay rise. Not any more. Record numbers would rather have more love than money.

Despite rising incomes and a more affluent society, more than half of all adults would give up a substantial part of their salary in order to spend more time with their family and friends, claims a new report.

Ninety-five per cent of adults interviewed for the study said that the thing that would make them most happy would be spending time with family and friends. Just 43 per cent said that money would make them happier.

The findings, to be published later this month by First Direct bank, will put pressure on employers to allow more workers to enjoy a better work/life balance. Although employees are now able to ask their bosses for more flexible working hours, employers are under no obligation to agree to requests.

Laura Williams, a researcher on work/life balance at the Work Foundation, said: "It is now common that people are willing to make sacrifices to spend more time with their family. But employers must realise the current model is not working. Some negotiations on the number of hours or the arrangement of hours is necessary."

Matthew Higgins, a spokesman for First Direct, said the study showed that Britain's work patterns were changing. "For busy professionals time has become almost as precious a commodity as money," he said. "In the UK we tend to work harder not smarter compared to almost every other country in Europe. But I think in the coming years we will see a growth in the number of people giving up some of their income to spend time with family."

Trade unions called on the Government to toughen up existing laws on flexible working in light of the new report. Nigel Stanley, the TUC's head of campaigns, said Britain also required a "culture change" if people were to achieve a better work/life balance.

"People feel they can't be the first to leave the office because they will look disloyal or uncommitted," said Mr Stanley. "Many are getting trapped in a long hours culture where people just have too much work to do. It requires a culture change and new legal rights."

A TUC report published last week showed that nearly five million workers in Britain worked an average of one extra day a week in unpaid overtime. The authors calculated that if each employee worked all their unpaid overtime at the beginning of the year, they would not start to get paid until 24 February.

While the Government has introduced legislation on flexible working hours, Britain still retains an opt-out on the European Working Time Directive. Signed by every other country in the European Union, this requires workers to do no more than a 48-hour week. The Government and business leaders insist signing up to the directive would damage Britain's economy.

Paid maternity and paternity leave have been drastically improved since 1997 but cultural barriers mean that uptake of paid paternity leave - currently fathers are entitled to two weeks - has not been high.


'I am giving up £7,000 a year for my children'

Jaqueline Capaloff, 50, a mother of three children, has been the manager of a mental health housing project in Hackney, east London, for 24 years.

But next month she will be taking a £7,000 pay cut to become a support worker at the same project. She wants to reclaim her time and energy for her two youngest children, Nathan, six, and Rebecca, 16.

"I want to take my little boy to school, pick him up and spend time with him in the evening. Right now I leave at 7.30am, get back at 9.30pm and never see the kids. I bring the stress of work back with me and I've become moody and jumpy.

"The new post will take the pressure off and I'll be able to relax. I can't wait. My daughter was absolutely delighted when I told her. I'll be able to cook them meals and I'll be at home when she comes back from school.

"Given the opportunity, I would have done it from the moment I had children. But with my first children I was a single mum and just couldn't afford it.

"There will be little things that we will have to do without. But my partner and I looked at our finances and decided we could do it.

"People say I'll miss the job, but this has been a long time coming. I just don't have the same energy I had for it before."

Katherine Haywood