IoD attacks ‘work-life balance’ lobby

And it singled out small businesses and women employees as those being most adversely affected by the ‘red tape’, claiming work-life balance campaigners were in effect harming those people it was meant help.

Allegations that the work place is characterised by employee dissatisfaction, illness and stress due to long-hours, inflexible working practices and increasing job insecurity are untrue, the IoD said.

Instead it asserted that working hours in British companies were on a par with global standards, and ‘not the longest in the EU’. Furthermore, when employees work long hours they do so voluntarily, in order to earn higher wages.

Ruth Lea, head of the policy unit at the IoD, said the work-life balance lobby rarely mentioned the benefits of employment such as money, status and social contact.

While admitting that some people worked very long hours, she said: ‘They do this because they are ambitious, like the extra pay and are quite happy to do it. Good for them. It’s their choice. People who make their own choices are in control of their lives and they are healthier than those who aren’t.’

Lea went on to warn that increasing maternity rights were already discouraging employers from recruiting women, and existing regulations were already ‘turning back the clock’ for women’s job prospects.

But Petra Cook, head of policy studies at the Institute of Management, told there was in fact support from business for increased maternity leave, provided it came with government support and allowances on the payroll.

And Cook said while long hours were still endemic in the workplace, the trend was reversing and managers were becoming resistant to enforcing long hours.

‘In 1997, our research revealed that 27% of managers were favouring employees spending more time at home than at work. In 2000, this number had risen to 32%,’ she said.

Cook also claimed that not all regulations had a negative impact on business, but were necessary to ensure basic rights for workers such as minimum wage and safe working conditions.

She did admit, however, that there was a concern among business that too much regulation could have a negative effect on UK trading.


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