Public sector HR chiefs defend record on work-life balance

Senior HR directors have hit out at a union-backed report suggesting there is only a “superficial commitment” from public sector employers to work-life balance.

The study of 1,000 union members by the Work Foundation think-tank, commissioned by public services union Unison, said employers “talk the talk” on work-life balance, but had only low levels of commitment to new ways of working.

“What we see is a classic rhetoric-reality gap. In the worst cases, managers appear to want to stamp out any modest deviation from the norm and become standard-bearers for inflexibility,” the report said.

But Alan Warner, corporate director (people and property) at Hertfordshire County Council, and lead officer at the Public Sector People Managers’ Association, said the report was a “half-empty” view of public sector workplaces.

“Organisations in the sector are making progress with flexible working – not for some altruistic reason, but because people will leave the workforce if there is not a flexible environment for them,” he said.

Warner refuted the idea of managers being barriers to flexible working. “It’s a gross exaggeration to say this is a serious problem – because it’s not,” he said.

Separate research by internet firm Eclipse found that half of 500 workers surveyed feared working flexibly would be “career suicide”.


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