The TUC, which represents more than seven million workers in Britain, said too many workers in the UK were expected to work long hours ‘for no return’.
According to the congress’s latest statistics, the average British employee works nearly 44 hours a week, almost nine hours in a five day week, while workers across the channel work three and five hours less.
Worse still, as many as four million UK employees regularly put in more than 48-hour weeks, despite the EU’s 1999 Working Time Directive which limits the working week for an employee in the European Union to no more than 48 hours.
Compared with these figures, workers in Germany, a country renowned for its high levels of efficiency and productivity, spend only 40.1 hours a week at the workplace, with workers in France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark and Italy putting in less than 40 hours per week.
The TUC said working conditions were further compounded by the lack of freedom given to workers to decide their own work hours. Nearly half of employees have absolutely no flexibility built into their job descriptions with just under a third given the option of flexi-time and just over a quarter offered parental leave.
Males working in the private sector have the most inflexible working conditions with almost 60% offered no opportunity to tailor their working life to their home and personal activities.
Will Hutton , chief executive of the Industrial Society which trains over 50,000 managers a year, said balancing work and life was crucial to better workplace performance and productivity.
But, he added, ‘traditionally UK employers have found it difficult to reconcile flexible working with the embedded culture of presenteeism. The irony is that this inflexible approach to work-life balance decreases employee motivation and results’.
Employment relations minister Alan Johnson agreed: ‘Offering employees a better work-life balance is crucial in the quest for better performance and higher productivity. It is also essential for fulfilled, as well as full, employment.’
In response to this imbalance in the UK workplace, the Industrial Society and the TUC have launched a video training pack titled Get the Balance Right which promotes the benefits of implementing work/life balance policies at the workplace and offers practical tips for doing this.
In addition, the TUC has also released a guide book called Changing Times which includes processes designed to bring about changes in the ‘organisation of working time’ to the benefit of both the employer and employee
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