Report

UK – Nine out of ten employees agreed that having more choice in working arrangements improves morale

The Fourth Work-Life Balance Employee Survey was conducted in early 2011. It found that the majority of employees were satisfied with their hours and current working arrangements. Levels of awareness of the right to request flexible working were high; 75 per cent of all employees, 73 per cent of employees with non-childcare caring responsibilities and 79 per cent of parents were aware of the right, rising to 82 per cent for parents of young children.

Flexitime, working from home and part-time working were the forms of flexible working most commonly taken up by employees. The views of employees regarding flexible working were generally positive. The vast majority of employees agreed that having more choice in working arrangements improves morale (90 per cent), although over one third (35 per cent) thought that people who work flexibly create more work for others. The availability of flexible working was important for just over two in five employees (41 per cent) when they made their decision to work for their current employer. Those with flexible working arrangements were more likely to work long hours, suggesting that such practices facilitate greater labour market involvement.

Around three out of every ten parent employees reported some disruption to their working time due to child illness in the last three months. This was most commonly dealt with by taking leave (47 per cent), followed by working flexibly (30 per cent). Even among those without a flexible working arrangement, 17 per cent were able to respond to their child’s illness by working flexibly.

Working hours

Employees were asked to report the usual number of hours they worked per week in their main paid job, excluding meal times, overtime and any on call working. On average, employees worked 34 hours in a usual working week. Seventy-four per cent of employees usually worked 30 hours or more per week, with six per cent working over 48 hours. Twenty-six per cent of employees worked less than 30 hours
per week.

There were a number of notable differences in the number of hours worked between particular groups of employees. Unsurprisingly, working less than 30 hours per week was more common among women (40 per cent), but also among those aged under 25 (39 per cent) and those aged 60 or over (40 per cent), those without managerial responsibilities (33 per cent) and those in routine/manual/intermediate occupations (36 – 37 per cent). Working more than 48 hours per week was more common among men (ten per cent), those with higher qualifications (15 per cent among those with a postgraduate degree), those with higher incomes (24 per cent of those with an income of £40k or higher), those working in the private sector (seven per cent) and those in male dominated workplaces (ten per cent).

Those with flexible working practices were more likely to work longer hours than those without (ten per cent compared with six per cent among full-time employees), suggesting that such practices facilitate greater labour market participation. Working longer hours was particularly notable among full-time employees who regularly worked from home (18 per cent working more than 48 hours), and part-time employees who worked flexitime and those who had had temporarily reduced hours (19 per cent and 34 per cent respectively working 35 to 40 hours).

Employees were asked how satisfied they were with the hours they worked. The majority of employees (78 per cent) said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with their working hours. A third of employees (33 per cent) said they were very satisfied. Less than one in ten (seven per cent) of employees were dissatisfied and three per cent said they were very dissatisfied. This is shown in Figure 2.10.

Availability of flexible working

Part-time working was the most commonly available form of flexible working (reported by 80 per cent of employees), followed by temporarily reduced hours (56 per cent) and flexitime (48 per cent).

The availability of many forms of flexible working was most commonly reported by women, those with higher qualifications, those in managerial/professional occupations, public sector employees, trade union members or those whose pay and conditions were agreed between the employer and a union.

There were notable differences by industry. Employees in public administration, education and health and those within banking, insurance, professional and support services most commonly reported the availability of flexible working. The reverse was true for those in manufacturing and construction.

The availability of flexible working was more likely to be reported among those employees in workplaces where there was a relatively equal gender split or the employees were mostly women.

Figure 3.2 shows the overall number of flexible working arrangements perceived by employees to be available in their workplace. The majority (92 per cent) of employees reported that some form of flexible working was available. Just over a third of employees (34 per cent) reported that between three and four arrangements were available, and a small minority of employees (three per cent) reported that all eight types of arrangements were available. The mean number of flexible arrangements reported as available was 3.5.

Full Report @ The fourth work-life balance employee survey

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