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Family Friendly Policies Briefing No 7

Introduction - what are they

Family-Friendly Policies are designed to improve working arrangements, which enable employees to balance work and home life.

Research shows when applied properly, employers have

  • Better staff retention
  • Reduced casual absence
  • Easier recruitment
  • Improvements in morale, commitment and productivity.

What does Family-Friendly cover?

Family-Friendly is a catch-all phrase covering areas which demonstrate an employer's commitment to equal opportunities in the workplace. The key policies should cover:-

  • EO Policy Statement
  • Maternity and parental rights:
    (to include amending existing agreements to take account of the new provisions introduced in April 2000)
  • Special leave provisions for:-
    • Adoption
    • Time-off to care for dependants (Reference: Parental Leave Directive)
    • Fertility treatment
    • Compassionate
  • Childcare Provisions
  • Harassment and Bullying
  • Sexual harassment
  • Flexible working arrangements
    • Job-share
    • Part-time working
    • Flexitime
    • Homeworking
  • Challenging workplace stress and long hours culture via a work/life balance agreement.

By introducing such measures, employers can remove barriers to equal opportunities and eliminate unfair and unlawful direct and indirect discrimination.

Why are they important?

Recently the Government launched a campaign encouraging employers to improve work-life balance. This initiative - which makes funding available to employers to emulate companies who have already established best practice in this area - coincides with research commissioned by Personnel Today. This shows that more than 75% of HR professionals think flexible working programmes bring competitive advantage and achieve
improved morale and motivation.

They recognise that there is a strong business case by acknowledging that they would:

  • Improve productivity and performance
  • Help attract more talented people
  • Reduce absenteeism and employee turnover
  • Restore a better balance between the home and working environment

Failure to adopt Family-Friendly Policies

With the financial demands currently being placed on public services, it would seem that the proper application of Family-Friendly policies would go some way to improving staff morale and - in the long term - productivity.

Although many of the employers we currently deal with have such policies in place, their application is patchy, badly-planned and in some cases potentially discriminatory. This failure by employers to actively adopt Family-Friendly policies will create even greater financial implications by leading to increased staff turnover, higher casual absence rates and damage to career prospects.

What you should do

Branches seeking a more co-ordinated approach to this issue need to convince their employers of the enormous benefits to be gained by a positive promotion of Family-Friendly policies.

In the first instance, they should:-

  • Carry out a survey of members asking for their views
  • Review current policies and agreements
  • Specialised training for HR personnel and Union reps
  • Establish monitoring and standards procedures.
  • Draw up a claim and initiate discussions with the employers;
  • Set up a pilot project on a specific issue, e.g. the new parental leave provisions and monitor its progress;
  • Publicise the benefits to members.

By embracing such change, the employers ultimately demonstrate that they recognise that employees have a life outside work, and can contribute to employee commitment.

Further Action

Branches who successfully negotiate new policies, and/or make improvements should send details to Eileen Dinning at the P&I Team in UNISON House.


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