DfEE counts the cost of sick leave

absenteeism and staff turnover on the increase, the Government is urging
businesses to address the issue now for their own benefit, as well as for their


Government has warned employers that they need to adopt work-life balance
practices if they are to cut staff turnover and absenteeism and increase

Work-Life Balance Survey 2000, published last week by the Department for
Education and Employment, claims the costs to business of employees suffering
from stress and taking extended sick leave are mounting.  

More than
half of companies surveyed claim work-life balance practices have lowered staff
turnover and absenteeism. Forty-six per cent say productivity has risen, and a
significant 72 per cent think it has fostered good employment relations.  

Of the
2,500 employers interviewed, four out of five have staff who work more than
their standard hours. One in nine full-time employees works more than 60 hours
every week – mostly men with children. Most were unwilling to consider
part-time work because they fear it would damage their professional lives.

minister Margaret Hodge said, “For decades now women have been calling for a
better work-life balance to help them be the productive workers and good
mothers they want to be. But men have been excluded from this process and
fathers are also calling for a fairer deal.”

they work longer hours, men were keener than women to work flexibly from home.
The report found that more men than women want flexitime, compressed weeks and
annualised hours. Women prefer term-time working, job-sharing, reduced hours
and switching from full-time to part-time.

Savage, managing director of flexible working consultancy Resource Connection,
said, “Employers must look at jobs and work out which parts can be done from
home. Then they should tailor job descriptions and contracts and find
candidates suited to the flexible arrangements. People who work flexibly are
more productive.”

Of 7,500
staff surveyed, nearly all agreed they should be able to balance their work and
home lives. The report shows, however, that managerial workloads have risen in
51 per cent of cases.




Asda promises leave for grandparents

chain Asda introduced grandparents’ leave last week for older staff who need
time off work to look after grandchildren.

It allows
employees with grandchildren to take up to a week off work after the birth of a
new child. Grandparents can also take up to three months’ unpaid leave on top
of their holiday entitlement to meet childcare. Asda has 14,000 employees aged
over 50.  

there will be the obvious costs of providing cover for grandparents on leave,
the new policy will further reduce the supermarket chain’s staff turnover rate,
claimed Marie Gill, head of colleague relations at Asda.

The chain
has an annual turnover rate of 25 per cent, compared with the retail average of
about 40 per cent. Gill believes its existing work-life balance programme, which
includes shift-swapping schemes, emergency family leave and study leave, has
contributed significantly to this.

She said,
“We are looking for ways to help our colleagues balance the commitment of home
and work life.”

Opinion Poll released last week claims that nine out of 10 parents trust no one
more than their own parents and in-laws to look after and care for their
children, and 40 per cent would be unable to work without their help.

By Richard


Case studies

Bank: space savings

The debt
collections department of the Co-operative Bank pioneered a teleworking pilot
scheme to improve staff retention levels and the use of space, which has become
the model for the bank.

with IT and HR specialists and the banking union Bifu, the department signed an
agreement in October 1996. Workstations were installed in employees’ homes and
significantly cut costs because the bank occupies less office space. Female
staff say they are more productive, can concentrate on their work better and
enjoy a better balance between work and home life.


Hyder: a shift in attitude

Hyder has
invested heavily in training and development to retain key staff. The merged
water and electricity provider is the largest plc based in Wales.

Its call
centre operates 20 different shift patterns designed to meet the goals of both
business and staff. Hyder consulted staff about their preferred shift patterns.
By swapping shifts and giving emergency time off, it has been able to
accommodate 99 per cent of the requirements of its staff. Now line managers and
advisory staff can job-share.

turnover at the call centre is less than 1 per cent and the company claims that
employees are highly motivated. On Christmas Day last year, during bad weather
and storms, the call centre staff were called to see whether they could come
into work – every employee contacted came in.


Lloyds TSB: flexible approach

Lloyds TSB
launched its flexible working plan in March 1999.

targeted at women, Working Options offers different working styles. Staff can
choose which option suits them best as long as it does not affect

from the first six months show that 23 per cent of applications have been from
managers and 20 per cent have been from men. Traditionally, these groups had
not felt flexible working would benefit them.

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