The planning started weeks ago and the date is already in the diary for the work Christmas party – but the majority of work partygoers would rather have the cash, new research from MetLife Employee Benefits shows.

Its nationwide study of employees found 71% would rather have the cash the company spends per head as a payout rather than the party. Younger workers are slightly more up for a party but even 65% of 18 to 24-year-olds would rather have the money instead of a Christmas do.

MetLife’s research shows that work Christmas parties are being held at organisations employing nearly six out of 10 workers (59%) this year with London employees the most likely to have a Christmas bash at 71%.

The reluctance to party might be driven by the fact that many workers are forced to take time off over the Christmas season – 33% of employees say they have to take holiday over Christmas and New Year because their organisation closes. That is even higher in SMEs where 50% say they shut for Christmas and require staff to take time off**, research shows.

Tom Gaynor, Employee Benefits Director, MetLife UK said: “Christmas parties can be great for morale and rewarding staff for their hard work throughout the year but it does seem as if most staff would rather just have the money.

“That is understandable with finances under pressure but it should not mean companies give up on rewarding staff with parties and other benefits which are not directly related to pay.

“In any case bonuses or cash payments have to be taxed while employers can spend up to £150 a head on Christmas parties without employees having to pay tax. Workers probably are better off enjoying the party.”

The table below shows how the office Christmas party spirit breaks down – or out – across the country.

East 26% 60% 73%
East Midlands 37% 59% 75%
London 33% 71% 70%
North East 28% 49% 81%
North West 43% 54% 75%
Scotland 39% 48% 69%
South East 30% 57% 72%
South West 27% 53% 66%
Wales 35% 53% 74%
West Midlands 33% 57% 69%
Yorkshire & Humberside 33% 55% 68%
UK 33% 57% 71%