The majority of employers surveyed (68%) said they accept that they have a responsibility to help staff achieve a healthy work-life balance. This attitude was found to be particularly strong in the public and voluntary sectors and among utility firms.
Work-life balance policies among these employers were not just aimed at working parents but were extended to all staff. They were seen as central to making an organisation a successful, high-performance workplace.
However, 28% still take a narrow statutory approach and limit the work-life balance policy to working parents. Responses from human resources professionals revealed that "management resistance to change" was the number one difficulty faced by 30% of firms.
Nick Isles, deputy director of advocacy at the Work Foundation, said, "The idea that flexible working should only benefit the employer still pervades the thinking of too many UK managers. Many surveys and case studies show that those employers who instigate and apply these policies see bottom-line benefits."
Employers that have adopted a positive approach to work-life balance issues did so to boost staff retention (52%), make the organisation more attractive (39%) to new recruits and to improve overall performance (38%). They said policies had been introduced in response to employee demand (36%) and increasing workforce diversity (35%) as well as a way to reduce sickness absence (29%).
Only 3% of firms formally measure the take-up and impact of their work-life balance policies.
Isles said, "It is reassuring to see so many organisations adopting an enlightened approach. In a service sector-dominated economy such as the UK, workers are the most important factor of production."
This was first published in September 2003