UK employers divided on benefits of worklife balance

UK
employees hoping for more of a balance between work and home in 2003 may be
disappointed, according to research published today.

A
survey by IRS Employment Review shows that employers are evenly divided between
those who think work-life balance policies – such as flexible working
arrangements, family-friendly benefits and additional leave – had improved
recruitment, raised productivity or reduced workplace stress and those who feel
they made no difference or even worsened the situation.

The
study also finds that many HR professionals often appear to lack basic monitoring
information about the take-up of flexible work initiatives and other benefits
that would allow their effectiveness to be evaluated properly.   

One-third
of respondents did not know what effect their policies had on some hoped-for
outcomes.

The
key findings of the research – conducted in November 2002 – are based on 118
responses from HR managers across the private and public sectors. 

Other
findings include: 


Employers set up work-life balance policies in the belief that the initiatives
would improve their ability to recruit and retain staff, with a substantial
minority also hoping to combat stress or improve productivity.  Trade union pressure was the least cited
reason


Work-life balance policies – what is offered? 
Ranked in order – 

part-time work
jobshare
time off in lieu
flexitime
occasional homeworking
annualised hours
part-time homeworking
compressed working week
full-time homeworking


While written policies setting out what was on offer were common, many
employers had no formal criteria for deciding whether or not employees were
eligible


Line managers are involved in the decision for eligibility in half of all cases

IRS
Employment Review managing editor, Mark Crail said: “Several large
organisations have already seen the benefits of offering more flexible working
arrangements for their staff, yet there are many more employers who have yet to
be convinced that such practices can improve organisational performance. This
year will see additional legislation in place when employers will be obliged to
accommodate the different needs of their workforce. 

"Despite
this, most respondents felt that they would not need to make changes to their
policies when the right to be protected against discrimination on the grounds
of religion or sexual orientation takes effect on 2 December 2003.  But they do anticipate making changes to
comply with the new right for parents with children under six to ask for
flexible work, and most will need to introduce or upgrade maternity, paternity
and adoption leave arrangements. 

"If
HR professionals were able to monitor such policies more efficiently, we could
see even more UK employers ready to offer a wide range of policies that benefited
both individual and organisation.”

By Ben Willmott

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