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Media centre – Work-life balance progress

Work-life balance debates have been evolving over several decades.

Key milestones in the UK have included:

2003 Parents of children under 6 are given the right to request flexible working and organisations have a duty to consider the request if it does not have a detrimental impact upon the business. Also extension of maternity, paternity and adoption leave rights.
2001 Announcement of 2 weeks paid paternity leave at a fixed rate of £100 per week
2000 £200 million announced to open 900 new nurseries with 50 places each in deprived areas.

Government introduces the Fairness at Work Bill which extends paid maternity leave from 14 to 18 weeks. There is to be 3 months unpaid parental leave for either parent up to age five. Adoptive parents will also be able to claim leave when the child arrives.

Government extends parental leave to both parents but parents of the existing 3.3 m children under 6 are excluded. Low income families on working families tax credits will receive these credits during parental leave.


1998 March. Affordable childcare is to be more widely available for children aged up to age 11 and Working Family Tax Credits are introduced.

June: White Paper on Fairness at Work on working time regulations and parental leave.

1994 Government announces new regulations on statutory maternity leave. It will no longer be conditional on length of service or working hours, 14 weeks will be paid and there is to be paid leave for ante-natal appointments.

Government passes the Sex Discrimination Act, outlawing discrimination against both sexes except where expressly permitted.

Equal Opportunities Commission is set up

Equal Pay Act comes into force

More information on the history of the debates is available at:

DTI History of Work-Life Balance
Charts the development of the Government’s parenting rights and has historical documents to download.

Sloan Network, United States of America
The Sloan Network, based at Boston College in the United States, has three timelines that examine the evolution of the ‘work-family’ field over the decades. These timelines identify key events, experiences, publications, and people that have marked the progress of the work-family area of study.


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