Long hours damage personal lives, says TUC

The UK’s long hours culture is damaging people’s personal lives and reinforcing the gender pay gap, the TUC said today in its submission to the government’s consultation on flexible working.

‘Fairness and flexibility’, the TUC’s contribution to the government’s Work and Families: Choice and Flexibility consultation, said that the best way for employees to achieve a better work life balance is for everyone to have the right to work flexibly.

It argues that this should be the government’s long-term aim, but for now the right to ask to reduce or change the way they work should be extended to all carers and parents with children under 18.

The TUC said that ending the UK opt-out to the 48-hour week is crucial if parents are to be given greater choice about how to balance their worlds of work and home.

It applauded the many new rights for parents introduced by the government but said these are merely a sticking plaster over a much bigger problem – UK employers’ obsession with the need to work long hours.

In addition to tackling the problem of excessive hours, the TUC is also calling for improvements to maternity and paternity leave, and the introduction of paid parental leave.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “The business benefits of flexible working are there for all to see. Apart from the obvious impact on the individual parent, who feels less stressed and more in control of their lives, more motivated employees are also more productive ones.

“Increasingly people are balancing the demands of caring not only for children but also dependent adults, and these workers need support and protection.”

But, according to Barber, long hours working is “the biggest demon” facing UK workers.

“Many fathers find themselves spending extra hours at work when they would really rather be at home, which in turn forces their partners to reduce their hours and pay to run the home and look after children,” he said.

“A better work-life balance, where men and women could spend more time with their families and be less stressed at work would be in everyone’s interest.”

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