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Men and Women both want a work-life balance


Britain’s men, as well as women, are calling for the right to balance their work and home lives, according to the first and largest single piece of research into work-life balance in Britain.

The Work-Life Balance baseline study was conducted jointly by the Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick and IFF Research. The study was commissioned by the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) in order to provide baseline information for the Government’s work-life balance campaign. The study provides representative national information about the availability of work-life balance arrangements in workplaces with five or more employees. It comprises two surveys, a survey of employers covering 2,500 workplaces in Great Britain and a survey of around 7500 employees.

The research shows that employers are more likely to offer stress counselling to help employees with the effects of the long-hours culture than assist with their basic childcare needs.

One in nine full time employees work over 60 hours every week, and many are men with children. Two-thirds of men feel that working part time would adversely affect their career progression. But it is clear that men, particularly fathers, want more flexibility. Men are keener than women to work from home, as new technology makes home-working easier.

Nearly all of the 7,500 employees and 2,500 employers interviewed in the baseline survey ‘Work-life Balance 2000’ agreed that everyone should be able to balance their work and home lives. Yet one in eight employees reported working on both Saturdays and Sundays, and one in five employees work for companies that are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The report, commissioned by the DfEE to assess the state of the nation’s work-life balance, also found:

  • Britain’s employees are more likely to be offered stress counselling (49%) to help with the effects of the long-hours culture than be offered assistance with their basic childcare needs (9%);
  • 80% of workplaces have employees who work more than their standard hours, and 39% of those employees who work extra hours do so without extra pay;
  • only 20% of employers are fully aware of the increased maternity leave rights and only 24% are fully aware of the new paternal leave rights; and
  • 25% of women take less than 18 weeks maternity leave.

However, it was also found that:
  • 55% of employers think that moving from full time to part time is acceptable in some cases;
  • 24% of employees now work flexitime and 12% have arranged to work only during term time; and
  • 56% of women said they would rather work more flexibly, such as working part-time or from home, after pregnancy rather than have a longer maternity leave period.

Margaret Hodge, Minister for Employment and Equal Opportunities, said:

“For decades now women have been calling for a better work-life balance to help them be the productive workers and good mothers that they want to be. But men have been excluded from this process. Now fathers too are calling for a fairer deal. With 14% of fathers working over 60 hours every week it means that men are less and less able to spend the time with the family that they want.”

“There is agreement all round – from business and from employees – that work-life balance practices lead to a healthier, happier workforce and bottom line benefits. Yet there are big differences in practice on the ground. Half of all employees have access to stress counselling, but fewer than one in nine are offered a creche to help with childcare needs. Employers are willing to deal with the consequences, not causes, of poor work-life balance.”

“The most progressive employers in the survey are already seeing the business benefits of working smarter – not working less. The good news is that 60% of employers are now allowing their workers to vary their hours. And over half of employers would allow staff to switch to part-time working in some cases.”

“But employees still have concerns. Nearly half of all workers who are not offered flexitime are calling for it in this survey. And many women still choose not to take up their full maternity leave.”

“People are our most valuable resource. Only by building a better work-life balance for all can we get the most out of UK PLC.”

Peter Elwood, Chief Executive of Lloyds TSB and of Chair of the Employers for Work-Life Balance, said:

“We recognise that men need to balance their work and life outside work just as much as women. Lloyds TSB’s Work Options scheme provides a framework which allows employees to request a working pattern that suits their lives. Both men and women can request to work flexibly and, as long as they can provide a business case to support this, their application will be accepted.”

“This is good news for employers and good news for staff. It is one of those rare and much sought after phenomena, a truly win win situation.”

Baroness Jay, Minister for Women, said:

“This report highlights the levels of support among employers and employees for getting the right work-life balance. It shows that flexible working practices, which contribute to a happier and more effective workforce, are good for everyone. For all people with busy lives, but especially working mums, work-life employment practices are increasingly important. But it’s not just about parents – all employees want to have lives outside work. There is still a long way to go, but this report clearly points out the benefits to be gained by putting in place proper work-life policies.”

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