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Work-life balance examples

February 5 2002 - A conference on trends in working hours and flexible working patterns in the UK and across Europe will hear from employers who, working with unions, have encouraged flexible working and work-life balance. Examples featured will include Lloyds TSB and Arla Foods.

Lloyds TSB and UNIFI

Lloyds TSB employees indicated in a survey that work-life balance was more important to many than improved pay and conditions. Focus groups were then used to find out more about staff views and consultants asked to formulate policy. A system was then allowing individual members of staff to:

- initiate requests for change

- make business case applications using a guidance pack

- conduct dialogues with their line managers.

The process is monitored and a staff newsletter used to keep people up to date on ideas.

Requests are approved if they do not have a negative impact on the business. According to Sally Evans, Head of Equal Opportunities at Lloyds TSB: 'There is a very clear business imperative for us, as what differentiates us from our competitors is the quality of our people. To maintain that edge we need to recruit and retain the right calibre of personnel.'

This means that the bank will consider suggestions for part-time work, job-share, compressed hours, teleworking or a combination of these.

And Ed Sweeney, Joint General Secretary, UNIFI says: - 'This is a good start to the long process of getting a sensible policy on work-life balance for staff and bank.'

Arla Foods and GMB

Arla Foods (GMB, T&G) is a multinational dairy company with 6 dairies in the UK. It supplies 20 per cent of milk to UK supermarkets. But the demand is seasonal and production is governed by the requirements of the supermarkets. This makes it difficult to give staff a choice over their hours and patterns of work.

Before the Working Time regulations were introduced many Arla employees regularly worked 50-60 hours a week - occasionally working as much as 80 hours per week. The GMB and T& amp;G trade unions and Arla UK came up with a plan to reduce working time and offer employees more choice about how long they work. The new agreement uses an annualised hours scheme with the number of working hours per year specified (instead of the traditional number of hours per week. Workers have some degree of choice 40, 42, 44, 46 or 48 hours average working week throughout the year. And they can apply to increase or reduce their hours if circumstances or preferences change - providing that there is enough work to support their request.

At first the scheme did not work too well but Gerry Veart (GMB) and Paul Simpson (Arla) took responsibility for the scheme and worked together - along with the T&G, - to redesign it.

They say that, despite considerable constraints imposed by customer-demand, by working in partnership with its trade unions, Arla has managed to reduce working time whilst maintaining the ability to meet tight production targets.

Related articles:

Managers find it hard to care

Danger of the desk

Married to the job?

Stress is a taboo subject

Evaluating stress measurement questionnaires

Bad publicity causes more concern than stress payouts

- Bad publicity from large pay settlements won by the victims of work-related stress are a greater cause of concern to employers than the actual sum awarded says Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology at the Manchester School of Management in the book `Stress and Employer Liability' published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).


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