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Employers and staff have different ideas on how to save their business

Employers and staff are in disagreement about which cost-cutting measures work best to save businesses, new research reveals.

According to IFF Research's Attitudes to Work study, two-thirds of UK employees have seen cost-cutting measures taken by their employers as a result of the economic downturn. But while the principle of cost reduction in a recession is widely accepted, the research highlights a conflict between employers and employees over which measures are best.

Freezing recruitment, freezing salaries and implementing voluntary redundancies have been experienced most widely and are also the measures least likely to generate opposition from employees. 

Although 21% of employees have experienced changes to staff expenses in their organisation, this registers as one of the less popular moves among employees: just 6% of staff would choose this as their preferred measure.

Salary cuts and compulsory redundancy rank among the most unpopular measures taken by employers (1% of employees favour them).  But the proportion of businesses to have implemented these measures is far higher, at 12% (salary cuts) and 20% (compulsory redundancy) - ahead of cancelling bonuses or introducing unpaid leave.

Although 20% of employees have seen enforced redundancies in their workplace - more than have seen cut salaries (12%), reduced working hours (15%) or reduced benefits (9%) - employees would rather endure softer measures across the workforce than witness colleagues being laid off (1%). The message from employees is to share the pain as evenly as possible.

There is a contrast in employees' attitudes towards remuneration in the public and private sectors. While a quarter of public-sector workers would choose to have their salary frozen over any other cost-cutting measure, this falls to just 17% in the private sector.

Jan Shury, joint managing director of IFF Research, said: "It is good to see that the measures being implemented by employers are broadly in line with what employees find most acceptable, but businesses also need to consider the impact of secondary measures taken once the initial major decisions are made.

"Workers and employers clearly agree that freezing salaries and recruitment is the right way to go, but there is a stark contrast in opinion over measures such as changing expenses or cutting salaries. Managers need to be aware of employees' opinions and where practical, talk to them about measures, if they are to protect morale and maintain a strong organisation for emerging from the recession.

"We know that employees value different benefits when choosing a job, but it's interesting to see how this translates when it comes to retaining or losing a job.  The contrast in attitudes towards unpaid leave or reduced working hours between the public and private sector shows that managers must approach decisions differently if they are to retain a motivated workforce."