Employers and work-life balance
 
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Employers and Work-life Balance

Peter Ellwood, former Chair of the EfWLB and former Chief Executive of LloydsTSB

In 2000, 22 organisations came together to form Employers for Work-Life Balance (EfWLB) on the understanding that it would exist for just one year. Our aim was to promote the business case for work-life balance and offer advice and ideas on best practice to other employers. Now after three years of raising awareness in the business community, EfWLB is disbanding. That the alliance eventually tripled its original anticipated life expectancy is testimony to the interest that work-life balance continues to generate.

Work-life balance is now well established in the business lexicon. It has progressed from being simply a parents’ or carers’ issue to a concept that is relevant to the entire workforce. The benefits of work-life balance to employer and employee alike are well documented by the government and a host of other organisations with an interest in the area. There are many companies – not least the EfWLB organisations – that can demonstrate the commercial advantages of implementing work-life balance practices, such as a better recruitment offering, an increase in employee retention rates, better absence management and improved staff morale and productivity.

However, it would be wrong to conclude from this that work-life balance is now a universally accepted business tool. We have come a long way, but there is more to be done. The cries of protest that accompanied the government’s recent legislation to give parents of children under six and disabled children under 18 the right to request flexible working indicates that there is still some way to go to convince employers that new ways of managing the working day can be good for business.

EfWLB is disbanding because as a group we have achieved what we set out to do. We have raised awareness through partnerships with Parents at Work and the Federation of Small Businesses. We have also worked with the government, sitting on the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Work-Life Balance, which helped to shape the Employment Act 2002 and hosted, jointly with government, the International Work-Life Summit in 2001.

Our driving force was a desire to share the experiences of the EfWLB organisations with other employers, to offer information and advice on best practice in work-life balance. The launch of the Investors in People UK Work-Life Balance Model – which EfWLB and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) initiated and helped to develop with other stakeholders – effectively marks the fulfilment of the EfWLB’s raison d’etre. The Work-Life Balance model will provide employers with a nationally accredited benchmark, with assessment and guidance for creating work-life solutions that are appropriate to each individual business.

EfWLB recognises that the work-life balance debate is far from over. To ensure that a positive business perspective continues to be part of the debate, we are handing over our brief as work-life balance champions to The Work Foundation.

The Work Foundation will take over the EfWLB website, which has been a source of information and guidance to employers, individuals, policy makers and academics over the last three years, recording more than 5 million hits to date.

EfWLB believes that The Work Foundation’s reputation for challenging preconceptions and introducing new ideas in the world of work makes it the right choice to maintain the topic’s profile on the corporate agenda.

The coming together of EfWLB, Investors in People UK and The Work Foundation in support of work-life balance indicates how the debate has matured in the last three years, and helps to reiterates the importance of this issue to the future of working life in this country.

The challenge going forward is to continue to examine the way work is structured and organised in our businesses, and the position it occupies in society more broadly. I believe that, approached positively and creatively, work-life balance can truly be a win-win for organisations, and for the people they employ.

Peter Ellwood, Chairman Employers for Work-Life Balance

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