Single staff want flexibility at work too

Staff want flexible working practices whether they have caring responsibilities or not, according to a government-backed survey of 7,500 employees.

Early findings from the Department for Education and Employment research confirmed the idea of flexible working was just as popular among people with no family commitments.

The Government fired up the national debate on work-life balance last week after two discussion papers were published by the DTI and the DfEE.

The DfEE and the Women’s Unit published Creating a Work-Life Balance – A Good Practice Guide for Employers while on the same day the DTI launched its own debate on how childcare duties and job responsibilities can be balanced for working parents. Its discussion paper Work and parents: competitiveness and choice examines work patterns in the UK, especially among women.

The DfEE study features nine detailed case studies from organisations like Motorola, Bristol City Council and Lloyds TSB, all of which have enjoyed significant business benefits from introducing flexible working practices.

Among the findings for employees with no caring responsibilities, 19 per cent wanted to work part time and 21 per cent favoured annualised hours – the same number as those with caring responsibilities.

The DTI guide shows that employment rates among mothers in two parent families increased from 50 per cent in 1990 to 68 per cent in 1997.

The proportion of women returning to work with their previous employer rose from 76 per cent in 1988 to 85 per cent by 1996.

Carol Savage, managing director of the flexible employment company the Resource Connection, said, “It comes as no surprise that people without caring responsibilities want flexible working. For example, some athletes want to work three days a week so they can devote time to training.”

Anne Minto, HR director of Smiths Industries, said, “These papers will be of great importance in promoting the debate about flexible working.”

By Richard Staines

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