Government-sponsored report focuses on tackling long working hours

In September 2005, the Department of Trade and Industry published a report, produced in partnership with the CBI and TUC, highlighting how leading companies are reforming long hours working practices.

On 6 September 2005, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) published a report, Managing change - practical ways to reduce long hours and reform working practices, produced in association with the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

This publication is the result of a partnership project between the three organisations looking at long hours working. The project was run on behalf of the DTI by the Equal Opportunities Commission. According to the DTI, the project was set up because an increasing number of organisation are looking for ways to 'maximise productivity whilst moving away from routinely relying on workers and managers working long hours'. The project sought to identify practical ways of implementing change management programmes in the workplace and share the findings between businesses. The report is based on a series on nine 'masterclasses' around the UK, at which 'business champions' shared their experiences with other employers.

The report looks at how a range of companies have introduced measures such as part-time working, flexitime, job-sharing and annualised hours in a bid to modernise working practices, while maintaining, or improving, productivity. Benefits are said to include 'enhanced customer service, retention of skilled staff, improved morale and less absenteeism', all of which 'contribute to improved worker satisfaction and productivity'. The report includes case studies from BT, Land Rover, Accenture, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Eversheds, Excel Assemblies, Perkin Elmer, Exel, Rolls-Royce, BNG Sellafield, Unilever Foods, BI Worldwide and Westinghouse.

According to the DTI, one of the lessons to emerge from the report is that 'businesses need to make sure they have the trust of their workforce and their active input when considering and introducing changes'. The case studies show that, 'while there is no one-size-fits-all model to changing working practices, a key ingredient in successful change is involving employees in consultations, whether directly or though trade unions.'

Speaking at the launch of the report, DTI employment relations minister Gerry Sutcliffe said: 'Changing working patterns can benefit everyone - employers, workers and their families. The government is firmly committed to giving people real choice about their working hours to achieve greater work-life balance. While regulation has a part to play, creating a culture where we work smarter rather than longer is key to improving worker satisfaction, as well as improving competitiveness, productivity and retaining skilled workers.'

John Cridland, deputy director-general of the CBI, commented: 'Maximising company performance by modernising working patterns is a key issue for UK firms. This project demonstrates how involving employees in new patterns of work can raise productivity, reduce absenteeism and give people a better work-life balance. Both business performance and employee satisfaction are improved and these are at the heart of any high-performance workplace.'

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: 'Lots of organisations have shown that we can beat Britain’s long hours culture by working smarter. Unions do believe in proper regulation, but this initiative shows that workplaces can do even better when managers and employees work together.'

The report summarises the key lessons from the various case studies in the following 'top tips':

  1. A strong business rationale based on improving business performance and raising employee satisfaction is essential.
  2. Effective employee involvement will deliver appreciation of the need for change and the willingness to embrace it.
  3. Vision and leadership - visible commitment from senior leaders and line managers will drive the change agenda throughout the organisation.
  4. Improving employee relations is key. Productivity improvements are achieved when employee relations are based on mutual trust and respect.
  5. Empowerment - maximising employee input is vital to driving continuous improvements in productivity at team level.
  6. Training is frequently a major contributing factor to successful change initiatives and improved business performance usually pays back any investment in new skills.
  7. Reward - using criteria which reward employees for innovation and the quality and quantity of work produced, rather than for the hours they put in reinforces the business case for implementing change.
  8. Measuring, monitoring and evaluating enables employers and employees to review and test the new practices to ensure they are meeting the needs of the business and employees.
  9. There is no one-size-fits-all model - changing working practices involves realigning culture and people management practices in a way that improves business performance and enhances the quality of employees’ working lives.

This information is made available through the European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO), as a service to users of the EIROnline database. EIRO is a project of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. However, this information has been neither edited nor approved by the Foundation, which means that it is not responsible for its content and accuracy. This is the responsibility of the EIRO national centre that originated/provided the information. For details see the "About this record" information in this record.

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