A new poll of over 1,000 employees* reveals that priorities have been realigned due to COVID – with job security and flexibility becoming main priorities for employees deciding whether to stay in their current role.

Law firm Winckworth Sherwood’s new report outlines that a significant proportion of workers believe job security and flexibility to be more important than salary when deciding whether to remain at their current company.

Over half (51 per cent) identified job security as the most important factor, owing to the uncertainty and disruptive nature of COVID-19 on the workplace. Similarly, two-fifths of respondents (40 per cent) felt flexibility was the main deciding factor, illustrating that COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of work-life balance to staff.

Conversely, only a third of applicants (32 per cent) cited salary as the most important influence on staying at their current firm.

Despite remuneration falling in importance for staff, it was found that this was an area that employers failed to show transparency.

Less than a quarter of employers (22 per cent) had re-aligned executive pay in line with wider staff remuneration and job package cuts. In addition, where employees’ pay packages or bonuses had taken a hit, almost half (46 per cent) of all employers had not been transparent about executive pay.

As such, many employers recognised that there was more work to be done regarding communication – with only over a third of employers surveyed (38 per cent) feeling that they had ensured appropriate communication and engagement with employees during the pandemic.

Despite this, employees and employers alike felt that employers responded well to the circumstances brought about by the pandemic. However, employers were slightly more likely to rate themselves higher in this field with almost four in five employers (78 per cent) stating they had responded well. Conversely, under three-quarters of employees felt the same (73 per cent).

Louise Lawrence, Partner in the Employment Team at Winckworth Sherwood and report co-author, 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.

Harriet Calver, Senior Associate at Winckworth Sherwood and report co-author, 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.


*The research, which included a survey 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. This can be found in Winckworth Sherwood’s report ‘Ethical leadership in a time of crisis: How employers have responded to the pandemic and what this means for the future of work’.