Family-friendly polices have clear impact on business results


Family-friendly polices have a "clear impact" on business results

For many enlightened organisations it's an article of faith that there is a strong business case for going family-friendly. New research by Industrial Relations Services provides renewed evidence that employment practices designed to make life easier for working parents and employees with caring responsibilities — everything from flexible hours and subsidised childcare to career breaks and term-time working — can bring "impressive business results".

Employment analysts IRS asked a panel of leading organisations to assess the impact of their family-friendly policies on a string of performance indicators. The researchers were able to assemble some telling evidence to support the notion that promoting family-friendly policies has a clear impact on business performance:

  • more than two-thirds of participants replying to this question (68%) said that employee commitment and motivation had improved

  • 67% said that these polices had helped recruitment and retention

  • the same percentage identified a positive impact on employee relations.

David Shepherd, editor of IRS Employment Trends said: "With unemployment at a 20-year low, a tightening labour market and an increasingly female workforce, it is hardly surprising that employers are focusing attention on family-friendly measures to motivate and retain key groups of staff. The business case for family-friendly employment policies is widely understood by firms competing to attract and keep employees with high levels of knowledge, skills and experience."

From the tranche of data gathered by IRS, part-time working, job sharing and family/emergency leave are the three most common family-friendly policies used by surveyed companies. Shepherd said: "A seismic shift in employer attitudes towards accommodating employees who require flexible arrangements to fulfil family-friendly responsibilities has taken place in recent years."

But other family-friendly polices remain minority pursuits. Only one in eight respondents boasted that they offer assistance with eldercare. And in terms of the provision of childcare facilities the picture is distinctly "family-unfriendly": just one in 15 provide nursery vouchers, while a fifth operate a crèche or some other childcare facility.

According to IRS, when it comes to promoting a better balance between work and home life, it is vital that there is a family-friendly organisational culture, backed by sympathetic line managers prepared to practice what the business preaches. It concludes with this stark message: "If control of family-friendly practices is left to the personnel or HR function and is dealt with only under written polices such as childcare, maternity and paternity leave and formal flexible hours arrangements, then such polices may not help the majority of employees to strike a healthy work-life balance."

Survey details

Title: "Work-life: win-win", IRS Employment Review 697, February 2000

Survey sample: the 16-page report is based on information supplied by 83 named organisations, including Asda, BBC, Ernst and Young and Railtrack. Follow-up case studies were undertaken with BP Amoco, South Lanarkshire Council and Waltham Forest Housing Action Trust.

Methodology: a postal questionnaire was sent to a group of Industrial Relations Services subscribers in November 1999.

Availability: Contact IRS, tel: 020 7354 6742.

Want to know more? email the editor of IRS Employment Trends or jump to the IRS web site . . .