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Revealed: the best UK towns and cities for working in HR

A new study by HR and payroll software provider Ciphr has revealed which UK locations make an ideal base for HR managers to live and work.

Ciphr ranked 100 major towns and cities against four key criteria that many people commonly consider when job hunting, relocating, or looking to change careers, including average earnings for HR managers, the number, and density, of medium and large employers – to reflect potential employment opportunities in the area – and housing affordability.

Aberdeen came out on top, by quite a margin, thanks to its high average HR manager salary of £50,450 (data compiled from Indeed, Glassdoor, and Adzuna) and high business density per capita. The number of medium and large businesses in the area with over 50 employees (which is the level at which many organisations start employing HR staff) is 17.2 per 10,000 working-age adults – well above the UK average of 12.4 per 10,000.

The city is also among one of the most economical in the UK when it comes to housing. Rental properties cost £786 a month, which is around a fifth (19%) of an average HR manager’s salary in Aberdeen, and the average property sells for £187,543 (3.7 times their income).

In comparison, typical homes across the rest of the UK cost £287,506, which is 6.5 times the average annual HR manager salary of £44,050. HR managers that rent, can expect to spend a quarter of their wages on housing – around £923 per month.

After Aberdeen, Northampton and London both also scored highly – taking the next two spots on Ciphr’s list of the best towns and cities in the UK for HR managers. Huddersfield, Slough, and Warwick were in joint fourth place, and Manchester, Bournemouth, Stockton-on-Tees, and Reading also made the top 10.

Top 10 UK towns and cities for HR professionals (score):

1. Aberdeen (460 / 500)
2. Northampton (391)
3. London (390)
=4. Huddersfield (377)
=4. Slough (377)
=4. Warwick (377)
7. Manchester (362)
8. Bournemouth (360)
9. Stockton-on-Tees (358)
10. Reading (357)

Highest salaries for HR managers

There are many different factors, aside from salary, which influence people’s decision-making about their choice of employers and their careers – such as work-life balance, remote working, flexible working hours, access to good employee benefits and rewards, job security, job satisfaction, and learning and development opportunities. But, pay, particularly in a cost-of-living crisis, is likely to be a significant motivator for many job hunters.

Ciphr analysed salary data taken from three different job sites – Indeed, Glassdoor, and Adzuna – two months apart, to discover which towns and cities pay HR managers the most on average. It found that HR managers in Chichester enjoy the highest average salary of £51,800. This is considerably more than the city’s average full-time salary of £30,298 (according to the Office of National Statistics’ latest ’employee earnings by workplace’ figures).

The next three highest-paying cities are Aberdeen (£50,450), London (£50,350), and Guildford (£50,300).

Top 10 UK towns and cities with the highest average salaries for HR managers:

  1. Chichester – £51,800
  2. Aberdeen – £50,450
  3. London – £50,350
  4. Guildford – £50,300
  5. Bracknell – £48,750
  6. Slough – £48,100
  7. Cheltenham – £47,750
  8. Warwick – £46,600
  9. Reading – £46,550
  10. Wokingham – £45,750

Most of the UK’s top 10 paying towns and cities, however, are among some of the least economical places to rent or buy in the UK (comparative to average HR manager salaries), with HR managers in many of these locations having to spend over eight times their annual earnings to buy a property (in London they need 14.5 times their income).

The title for least affordable location in Ciphr’s study belongs to Sevenoaks in Kent, closely followed by Bath, St Albans, and Winchester.

At the opposite end of the scale, the most affordable housing (on an average HR manager’s salary) can be found in Stockton-on-Tees, Stoke-on-Trent, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, and Blackpool.

HR job opportunities

There is no one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to HR-to-employee ratios (ie the number of HR employees for every 100 non-HR employees), as company size, budget and use of HR software, for example, all impact the number of HR roles that an organisation requires. Generally, towns and cities with higher numbers of medium and large employers usually have more HR jobs and employment opportunities for people management professionals, than those with fewer employers.

On this basis, after London (10,060), Birmingham and Leeds would appear to be HR job hot spots as they have the most medium and large businesses overall, at 725 and 720 respectively.

When the figures are adjusted for the working-age population, however, it’s Winchester that has the highest density of medium and large employers (with over 50 employees) at 19.1 per 10,000 working-age residents.

Slough also has an impressively high density of large employers (with over 250 employees), with 4.8 per 10,000 working-age population (the UK average is 2.5 per 10,000). Wokingham, Milton Keynes, Bracknell, Solihull, Warwick, Reading, Cheltenham, and Newcastle upon Tyne all have over 4 per 10,000.

UK towns and cities with the highest density of businesses / employers (with over 50 employees):

  1. Winchester (19.1 per 10,000 working-age adults)
  2. Slough (17.9)
  3. Harrogate (17.8)
  4. Warwick (17.3)
  5. Aberdeen (17.2)
  6. Milton Keynes (16.9)
  7. Norwich (16.8)
  8. London (16.6)
  9. Exeter (16.5)
  10. Northampton / West Northamptonshire (16.3)

Ciphr’s list of the best towns and cities in the UK for HR managers to live and work (the top 50 results) is available to view and search at:

Ciphr ranked 100 of the UK’s largest towns and cities (in terms of total population size) across four metrics – salary, number of businesses, business density, and housing affordability. Each town or city was allocated points (out of 100) based on where they ranked between the highest and lowest values for each metric (the results for salary were double-weighted when calculating the final score).

Ciphr is a leading UK-based provider of integrated HR, payroll, learning and recruitment solutions. Ciphr also offers off-the-shelf and bespoke eLearning content and diversity and inclusion consultancy services through its recent acquisition, Marshall E-Learning. More than 600 organisations use the group’s people management solutions globally across the public, private and non-profit sectors.

For more information, please visit

average annual UK salary for HR managers compiled from Indeed (£42,738), Glassdoor (£48,590), and Adzuna (£40,840), where available, on 3-6 March and 3-4 May 2023.

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