Employers and work-life balance

Base ConnectionsBoehringer IngelheimBristol City CouncilBTEli LillyFarrelly FacilitiesGood Hope HospitalHappy LtdInland RevenueIXL Laundry Services GroupKPMGLloyds TSBLondon Borough of CamdenMarks & SpencerMorgan StanleyPenguin Group UKPenguin Group UKPricewaterhouseCoopersThe Royal Bank of ScotlandTUC Changing Times websiteUnilever

Case studies

Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) UK Ltd – Striking the Work Life Balance!

The Company
Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) UK Ltd is the largest independent pharmaceutical company. It forms part of a global corporation, headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany.

The organisation aims to improve the health of people and animals through the provision of high quality prescription medicines, natural health and veterinary products.

No. of permanent employees

907 (UK), 36,000 (worldwide)

% female 49%
%male 51%
% turnover 6%
% women returning after maternity leave 90%

The Challenge
It is essential that BI UK Ltd remains an employer of choice in order to recruit and retain the best employees to meet its business goals.

Employee feedback also indicated that employees value the opportunity to work flexibly.

Therefore, the Company is faced with the challenge of providing flexible working arrangements whilst continuing to meet business and customer needs. The perception that flexible workers do not make the same contribution as the rest of the team also needed to be addressed.

The Response
A project team was established to investigate and implement more flexible ways of working. This team comprised members of the HR division and representatives from the business who understood the real potential impact of flexible working on the business.

First the business benefits of a work-life balance strategy was summarised to the directors of BI. With their buy in, it has been easier to implement the flexible working policies.

Potential barriers relating to flexible working have been overcome by inviting employees who request to work flexibly to complete a form to indicate the potential impact on the business and possible solutions.

Above all, the aim has been to promote a culture where the focus is on performance rather than ‘presenteeism’.

Flexible working patterns and policies in operation within BI:
As a result of the work completed by the Flexible Working Project Team, the following flexible working patterns and policies have been developed or extended.

  • Flexi time
  • Banking Holiday
  • Reduced hours (part time) working
  • Rehabilitation programme (phased return to work following long term sick leave)
  • Home working
  • Career Breaks
  • Community Spirit scheme (allows employees to spend 2 days per year doing community work)
  • Special Leave (e.g. for religious holidays/caring for a dependant/marriage/moving house)
  • Mental Well Being Policy and Well Being Room with massage chair for stress
  • Industrial Chaplain (visits fortnightly)
  • Healthy Living initiatives such as no smoking day
  • Childcare vouchers
  • Maternity Leave
  • Paternity Leave
  • Adoption Leave
  • Parental leave


  • Increased talent pool
  • Employees more likely to return from maternity leave
  • Retention of key skills and experience, which results in reduced recruitment costs
  • Decreased sickness absence
  • Improved productivity by measuring performance and rewarding employees according to achievement and contribution to the business rather than presenteeism in the office
  • Overall improved well-being of employees

In Practice
Flexible working arrangements are taken up by employees across the company, provided they are still able to meet business and customer requirements. These arrangements are beneficial for those with child care responsibilities and people who value a better work-life balance.

The Head of HR Operations, reporting to the HR Director, has worked for BI for 6 years.
“Working reduced hours allows me to achieve more of a balance between my work and spending time with my children. That is, I spend 4 days at work, 3 at home. This time with the children at such an early stage of their development is invaluable.”

The Technology Specialist, has been with BI for 10 years. He works flexi-time.
“The flexi-time policy in operation within BI enables me to start work early and then leave at 3pm each day. This means that I am able to spread tasks for my personal life to weekdays which, without flexible working, I would have to cram in to a Saturday. In the summer I am able to take advantage of the nicer weather, lighter evenings and enjoy a better social life!”

The Future
The BI Flexible Working policies and patterns are monitored to facilitate continuous improvement.

The Company will continue to strive towards best practice and the need for a work-life balance will remain at the top of the business agenda.

Above all, the Company aims not only to pay lip service to such initiatives, but to promote a culture where the focus is on high performance rather than presenteeism.

July 2005


© Work-Life balance part of The Work Foundation 2005