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Less than half UK workforce able to work flexibly


The TUC and The Industrial Society joined forces yesterday to condemn the UK’s long hours culture, and urge employers to adopt a more positive approach to work/life balance.

At the launch of Changing times – a new TUC guide to flexible working and Get the balance right – the Industrial Society/TUC video training pack on work/life balance, the TUC said that people in the UK work the longest hours in Europe and almost half of the country’s employees have no flexible working arrangements in place.

Changing times sets out a unique process designed by the TUC to achieve changes in the organisation of working time that will benefit both employee and employer. It is a practical step by step guide to implementing work-life balance strategies which will enhance productivity and efficiency.

Get the balance right promotes the benefits of adopting work-life balance policies for both employers and staff. The video training pack offers practical steps in establishing work-life balance policies and includes:

  • a 25 minute drama-based video and user guide
  • the Changing times guide to establishing a successful work-life policy
  • The Industrial Society’s Work-Life Manual

The Industrial Society/TUC pack says that work-life balance isn’t just about introducing policies for working parents but ensuring everyone at work has the opportunity to take the time to pursue other interests. Recent surveys suggest the majority of employees do not have the freedom to do this. The 1998 Workplace Employee Relations Survey (WERS) suggests only one in three employees (32%) are able to take the advantages of flexitime, a quarter (28%) are allowed to take parental leave, and only 16% have access to a job-share scheme. Almost half of the employees surveyed in WERS (46%) said there was no provision for flexible working at all.

On top of this, UK workers still work the longest hours in Europe – 43.6 hours a week, compared to 38.4 hours a week for Belgian workers – and despite the introduction of the European Working Time Directive in 1999, four million employees are still regularly working over 48 hours a week.

TUC General Secretary, John Monks said, "Although we live in an age when high quality goods and services are demanded outside of what we once considered to be normal working hours, employers won’t be able to deliver successfully on these unless they involve their staff in the process of change.

"Too many workers in the UK are expected to work long hours and inflexibly for no return. That’s why promoting a positive approach to balancing work and other life is so important."

Will Hutton, Chief Executive of The Industrial Society says, "Balancing work and life is crucial to better workplace performance and productivity. Traditionally UK employers have found it difficult to reconcile flexible working with the embedded culture of presenteeism. The irony is that this inflexible approach to work-life balance decreases employee motivation and results.

"The good news is that research suggests that managers are beginning to judge workers by what they achieve and not just by their presence. Large companies have tended to lead in this area – given the right tools small firms should now by ready to get in on the act."

Alan Johnson MP, Employment Relations Minister said, "Offering employees a better work-life balance is crucial in the quest for better performance and higher productivity. It is also essential for fulfilled, as well as full, employment.

"Employees are able to balance the demands of work with family commitments or other pursuits, while in turn employers gain from reduced absenteeism, less staff turnover and a more productive, highly committed workforce – all of which make an impact upon the bottom line."

Changing times is available from the TUC publications priced £30 for commercial organisations and £5 for member unions.

Get the balance right is available priced £895 plus carriage and VAT and at £225 for trade unions. Copies are available through The Industrial Society on 0870 400 1000. For trade union sales contact Davinder Sahota 020 7467 1230.

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