Accountants based in the South of England enjoy a higher quality of life than their counterparts in the North and Midlands, according to the latest quality of life index from leading accountancy and financial recruitment consultancy Marks Sattin.
The research, which ranks the UK regions on the basis of average salaries in the sector, as well as commuting times, housing affordability, job satisfaction and hours worked each week, revealed that accountants in the South West have the best quality of life in England. This is followed by London and the South East – illustrating a clear North / South divide in accountants’ standards of living.
At the other end of the scale, the worst standard of living was found in the East Midlands, where salaries and job satisfaction levels were the lowest in the country. Weaker salaries and low job distribution also contributed to Yorkshire and Humberside scoring second lowest on the index.
Matthew Wilcox, Managing Director at Marks Sattin commented: “The government has placed the creation of a Northern Powerhouse at the centre of its policy agenda and, whilst this is a long-term goal, our data revealing a clear North / South divide in accountants’ quality of life goes to show that achieving this aim is still some distance away. Accountants and the work they do is essential to business and the economy overall. If there is a geographic disparity in their quality of life there is a risk that business critical accounting talent might migrate to areas where quality of life is better, thus leaving a vacuum in certain regions.
“The dust is yet to settle from the Brexit decision but, whatever your personal opinion on the issue, one thing it does throw up is a fresh imperative to ensure that the economic balance across the UK is calibrated correctly, that new business and infrastructure are attracted to the regions, bringing new job opportunities too.
“This project needs input from many directions, including a drive from the government to ensure delivery of much needed housing and infrastructure. With this investment business will follow and new accountancy and financial job opportunities will flourish.”
The index revealed that accountants in London had the second highest levels of quality of life in England. With the region recording an average annual salary of £92,875 in the sector, accountants in London were paid far more than accountants in any other region – giving them increased purchasing power. While London is famed for its astronomical house prices, these high salaries ensured that the capital did not score badly in terms of housing affordability.
However, in return for their high salaries, accountants in London have to put up with the longest commuter times in England, with the average accountant spending 2 hours 18 minutes commuting to and from work each week. Accountants in the South West meanwhile enjoyed the quickest average total weekly commute, which measured just 1 hour 12 minutes.
A little extra
For accountants in every region analysed by Marks Sattin, the most important benefit was to have 25 days or more every year allocated to annual leave. However, the recruiter’s Salary Survey data also revealed an upward trend in the number of accountants whose benefits include the ability to choose to work flexible hours. In 2016 33% of accountants reported flexible working as a benefit; 30% in 2015 and 29% in 2014. This indicates that employers are increasingly aware that non-traditional benefits are an important part of accountants’ packages. Flexible working also has the ability to improve overall quality of life and can be a significant tool for retention and is also attract new employees.
Matthew Wilcox continued: “Accountants work with highly sensitive data but technology increasingly allows them to work from home and work flexible hours. Those on the consultancy side are frequently out and about at client sites anyway. Long commutes, specifically more than an hour in length , have an adverse effect on employer well-being especially as people juggle more and more work / life commitments. Flexible working is an increasingly important tool for business and accountancy firms to attract and retain talent and incorporating this can have a positive impact on employees’ quality of life.”