UK work-life balance delivers for business and workers

Suggestions that the so-called ‘Anglo-Saxon’ economic model favoured by the UK provides a poor deal for workers and people on low incomes have been dismissed by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

The CIPD’s latest Work Audit study shows that the UK’s work and welfare model is better at creating jobs and improving working conditions than its ailing European counterparts.

The UK’s approach has been much maligned, by French politicians in particular.

However, John Philpott, the CIPD’s chief economist, said the facts show that the UK’s particular policy combination of managed flexibility, minimum workplace standards and work-related welfare benefits serves both the economic and social interests of the country.

The report – published ahead of Tony Blair’s speech to the European Parliament whihc will introduce the official programme for the UK’s presidency of the European Union – concludes that the UK now operates what might be called an ‘Anglo-social model’, given improvements in recent years to workers’ rights, higher incomes for low-paid workers, and greater work incentives.

“UK workers on average enjoy higher salaries than their counterparts in major economies like France, and the redistribution of income in the form of tax credits means that the UK also now has a relatively low proportion of working poor by EU standards,” the report said.
“Meanwhile, constant talk of the UK’s ‘long-hours culture’ overlooks the fact that the UK approach also enables a relatively high proportion of people to work short hours and helps many women, in particular, to achieve a better work-life balance.

“Likewise, the high level of employment protection offered to continental workers with permanent job contracts results in an equally high rate of involuntary, and often insecure, temporary employment,” Philpott said.

“The proportion of employees on fixed contracts averages 14% across the EU – double the UK rate,” he added.

The report also conculded that:

The UK lies third in the average pay league behind Luxembourg and Germany – well ahead of countries like France, Italy and the Scandinavian countries.

The UK employment rate among those of working age is almost 75%, compared to the EU average of 63%.

About 70% of British women of working age are in work, as compared with fewer than 60% in the EU as a whole.

Youth unemployment stands at 11% in the UK, which compares with an average rate of 16% in the EU15.

Only 6% of the UK working population is classed as ‘working poor’ compared with 10% in Italy and 8% in France and Spain.

UK full-time workers do 44 hours a week compared with an EU average of 40,  yet the UK also has a far higher proportion of part-time workers and the average working week for UK part-time workers (19 hours) is lower than the average for the EU (20).

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