Study damns Britain’s mindset of long hours

UK staff are working the longest hours in Europe and need to be offered more
flexible working arrangements, according to a TUC report.

The report, Changing Times, criticises the culture of
"presenteeism" whereby employees expect staff to work rigid hours
within a set work space.

The labour market in the UK is among the least regulated in Europe and staff
work on average more than 43 hours a week, nearly four hours longer than their
counterparts elsewhere, says the report.

TUC general secretary John Monks says, "Although we live in an age
where high-quality goods and services are demanded outside of what we once
considered to be normal working hours, employers will not be able to deliver
successfully on these unless they involve their staff in the process of change.

"Too many employees are expecting to work long hours and inflexibly for
no return."

The report includes a best practice case study on car safety company TK-ECC
which has nearly eliminated absenteeism through the introduction of

The Northern Ireland-based company was concerned that skilled workers were
not returning to work after maternity leave and production workers had high
absence rates.

It conducted a workforce survey that revealed shift patterns that conflicted
with family commitments. A pilot jobshare scheme has allowed female staff to
continue their careers after maternity leave.

Will Hutton, chief executive of the Industrial Society, which contributed to
the report, said flexible working practices such as job shares also improve

He said, "Balancing work and life is critical to better workplace
performance and productivity. Traditionally UK employers have found it
difficult to reconcile flexible working with the embedded culture of

"The irony is that this inflexible approach to work-life balance
decreases employee motivation and results."

By Paul Nelson

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