The business case for introducing work-life polices will clearly be different for every organisation. There are some strong arguments, however, for organisations to look at this issue.

  • Competitive Marketplace
  • Recruitment and Retention
  • Motivation and Loyalty
  • Stress in the Workforce
  • Demographic and Social Changes


    UK organisations are operating in an increasingly competitive environment. A change in customer demands and expectations for access to goods and services around the clock has meant organisations can no longer operate within the traditional nine to five structure. To remain competitive and deliver high quality service, organisations need to be flexible.

    As well as competing for customers, organisations are increasingly competing for employees. Many employees have responsibilities and interests outside work and organisations need to help employees find an appropriate balance to incorporate these. Failure to recognise the importance of this issue could have serious financial ramifications. For example, it costs between £5-10,000 to recruit and train a bank clerk. The savings involved in the retention of skilled and experienced employees are therefore considerable. A recent survey of graduates identified balancing work life with home life as being a key issue impacting on the retention of graduate recruits1.

    The issue of work-life balance is gathering increasing importance as recent surveys show: In 1999, a survey of 2,000 managers in the UK2 found that a third of them would change their jobs if they felt they could improve their work-life balance. An international survey of 10,000 managers in Europe, US, Russia and Japan3 found that balancing the needs of work and personal life was selected as the most or second most important attribute in a job. The need for balance was valued higher than remuneration in nearly every country. A survey of MBA final year students4 indicated that the ability to achieve a balanced lifestyle was the most important factor they would look for in choosing their first employment and 90% singled out work-life balance as a key factor in determining commitment to their employer.

Employees in the United Kingdom work the longest hours of any in European country5. Sickness absence in 1998 cost UK employers £10.2 billion, with an average total of 8.5 working days lost per employee. Employers ranked workplace stress and home responsibilities in the top five causes of absence6.

Demographic and social changes have a major impact on the workforce and will continue to do so. 68% of women aged 16-59 now work7. Women are also predicted to account for 72% of the growth in jobs over the next few years and this will total 45% of all jobs7. The UK has a rapidly ageing population. In the next 20 years, the dependent elderly will out-number the dependent young and an increasing number of employees will have elder-care as well as child-care responsibilities. In 1996, one adult in eight in Britain was looking after, or providing some regular service, for a sick or elderly person8 and 2.8 million men are carers9.


  1. Sturges J & Guest D. Should I Stay or Should I Go? Issues relating to the retention of graduates. Warwick: The Association of Graduate Recruiters, 1999.
  2. Ceridian Performance Partners/Management Today (1999). The Price of Success, London: Ceridian Performance Partners.
  3. Gemini Consulting (1998). International Workforce Management Study: Capitalising on the Workforce, London: Yankelovitch Partners Inc.
  4. Coopers & Lybrand (1997). International Student Survey Report. London: Coopers & Lybrand
  5. Eurostat (1997), Labour Force Survey Results 1996, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications for European Communities.
  6. 6 Confederation of British Industry (1999). Focus on Absence, 1999 absence and labour turnover survey. London: CBI.
  7. Office of National Statistics. Labour Force Survey Projections, Labour Market Trends, June 1998.
  8. Office of National Statistics (1996). General Household Survey.
  9. Office of National Statistics. Informal Carers. Office of National Statistics, 1998