A third of people looking for a new job would rather have flexible working hours than a pay rise, a comprehensive survey for the Department of Trade and Industry has found.
Job seekers said they valued spending more time with their families or pursuing their interests above higher salaries or perks such as company cars.
The survey comes as Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, prepares to launch a nationwide awareness campaign about new employment rights allowing people to spend more time with their families.
From this April, parents of children under 6 or disabled children under 18 will have the right to ask their employers to let them work flexibly. Maternity leave will be extended and fathers will have a new right to two weeks' paid paternity leave after their children are born.
The survey found that seven out of 10 job seekers would like the chance to work more flexibly. A third would give up £1,000 a year to have the chance to abandon the 9-to-5 routine and choose more flexible hours.
Almost half would prefer flexibility in working hours to a company car or free gym membership.
Ms Hewitt said the poll showed that most employees were no longer driven by huge salaries or perks but by a good quality of life and a balance between home and work.
"New Year is when many people start shopping for their next job, but people want more from work than the usual package. The best businesses are already switched on to this and are using flexible working policies to attract and retain the people they need in the war for talent," she said.
"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."
The poll was carried out for the Government by Reed recruitment, which surveyed almost 5,000 job seekers. It found that nearly a quarter of managers and directors thought work-life balance was an important factor in deciding whether to apply for a new job and eight out of 10 parents with children under six agreed. Overall, six out of 10 workers view the work-life balance as an important factor in assessing a potential new job.
James Reed of the recruitment website www.reed.co.uk said: "Too many organisations seem to be missing out on one of the most effective ways to attract top talent. Employers which highlight opportunities to achieve a better work-life balance will simply be better-placed to recruit and retain the people they need."
But staying long hours in the office is still common, the poll shows, with 81 per cent of those surveyed saying they had worked in an environment where it was the norm.
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