2.3 Flexible working time and work-life balance
This section will examine good practice approaches to
flexible working time practices that can be put in place to retain and recruit
- Older workers and flexible working time
- The role of the social partners
- Developing a company work-life balance policy
“People in good health will have to work
longer, but not necessarily full-time. We will see more flexible retirement
schemes, combining part-time work with pensions, and a change in perceptions as
to what retirement and work mean. We need to invest in the human capital of
older workers and provide attractive, healthy working conditions.”
Vladimir Špidla, EU Commissioner
for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities
2.3.1 Older workers and flexible working time
older workers express a preference to work flexible hours, in some cases this
can be shorter working hours, partial retirement, changes in shifts, longer
periods of leave, job rotation, reductions in overtime or additional work
working hours can be the key factor in retaining staff, achieving company goals
and having a productive, motivated and satisfied staff. Companies that have a
flexible approach to working hours often have fewer staff taking sick leave and
a more skilled and committed workforce, which in turn improves the company’s
overall productivity and competitiveness. There is substantial evidence from
companies and employee surveys across Europe
to show that work-life balance is a major priority for a significant number of
employees today. Creating a culture of work-life balance requires that
organisations take a positive approach to flexible working.
working can best be promoted through the social dialogue and implemented
through collective agreements. This is particularly important to ensuring that
there is a benefit to both the employee and the employer, while also ensuring
that policies are appropriate and relevant to the workforce. In many countries
unions and employers have found that the development and implementation of
flexible working time benefits from a social partnership approach. For example,
a 2006 report by the ETUC Challenging
Times: Innovative ways of organizing working time has shown the added value
of a partnership approach for productivity, retention of staff and improved
working time is a key age management tool that can promote the retention of
older works by helping older to workers to adjust to physical and mental
changes that result from the ageing process. This can be particularly the case
with physically demanding work, work that is highly stressful, or as older
workers approach retirement age. However, it is important to stress that this
is not just an issue of relevant to older workers, but can be of benefit to the
health and well-being and work-life balance of all workers at different stages
of their life-cycle.
working hours has benefits for organisations and individuals:
organisations, flexible working
hours can be crucial to retaining valuable older workers by providing them with
a better quality of working life, improved health and well-being and
- Flexible working hours can also be a useful tool for workforce planning by balancing the working time preferences of older and younger workers.
- It can result in lower rates of absenteeism for ill health and can help improve working conditions for older workers who work shifts.
- This can have the effect of reducing the numbers of older workers taking early retirement.
- As a human resource practice flexible working hours can facilitate access to training and skills development, career development, job rotation and knowledge transfer between older and younger workers.
- Employers offering flexible working hours can also improve the image of their company by showing that the needs of older workers are taken into consideration, which in turn can enhance the profile and attractiveness of the company to potential new recruits. Introducing change through flexible working can, therefore, have a positive impact on service delivery and competitiveness.
- If older employees feel valued they will be more motivated and there will be a less stressful work environment, with lower rates of absenteeism and sickness, and increases in productivity.
- As a provision to retain older workers, flexible working provisions can save companies the time and resources that are incurred in recruiting and training new staff.
employees flexible working hours can
enable older workers to achieve work-life balance so that they can reconcile
their working lives with their personal interests, commitments or care
shorter or flexible hours can promote better health, reduce stress and promote
improved working conditions.
workers to stay in employment, by working shorter or flexible hours, is a
frequently cited preference of older workers.
some older workers, particularly women workers, combining work with family
responsibilities can also enable them to remain in the labour market for longer
periods of time while balancing caring responsibilities.
working time can enhance choice
and control of working time and the working lives of older people.
working together to agree flexible working hours arrangements can result in
better relations between management and staff, improved self-esteem, health and
confidence, loyalty and commitment, job satisfaction and a better working
who gain work-life balance have reduced stress and work pressure.
a 63 years old worker in
Energi Norway, has worked for more
than 30 years in the company. He is an electrical engineer and has held several
different positions in the company. Currently he is an Assistant Managing
Director and works four days a week on electrical power network development. He
says that he has had good experiences of working in the company. He recently
had the opportunity to change his position within the company to a position
that was more suitable to an older worker. He has combined this with a 20 per
cent reduction in weekly working time and an extra week’s holiday, given by the
company to workers over the age of 60 years (this is in addition to the extra
week given to all workers in Norway from the same age). He
says that the effect on his income has been negligible and it is important to
note that his pension will be unaffected by this reduction in working hours.
Arne says that the company has done a lot to promote active ageing in the
workplace but stresses that it is important that old workers have a real choice
concerning their own situation and that they have an occupation that is valued
by themselves and the company. Arne says that is happy with his current
situation and states that if his health remains good will probably work until
his is 67 years of age.
Petter Sorensen is a 65 year old Chief
Security Officer who has been working in Statkraft since 1993. Prior to his
current position he worked as a Manager for Information Technology for nine
years and in 2002 took up work in the security area of the company. The
transition from IT manager to security manager was smooth as the position was
vacant at the time. Although he believes that he has been better acknowledged
at a corporate level, this has nothing to do with his age. The most noticeable
benefit he has from company policies is the extra week’s holiday which employees
receive after 62 years of age, followed by another week at 65 years. He
believes that human resources policies in the company have been good and that
his age has not affected his career path. In Statkraft that tendency has been
to take early retirement at 62 years. He believes that the company should
introduce an 80/100 scheme for employees at the age of 62, which would enable
older workers to work 80 per cent for 100 per cent pay. He believes that this
would be a very good incentive for people to stay in the company that the
existing provision of an extra week’s holiday. Petter plans to retire at 67
years of age, which is the statutory retirement age in Norway.
can electricity companies do to promote flexible working for older workers?
flexible working time policies
visible policy setting out the range of flexible working time policies that
workers can take up is important to providing workers with rights and
entitlements. While in some countries, for example, in the UK, Netherlands and Germany, there exists a legal right for all
workers to request a changing in working hours, in others these entitlements
are negotiated through collective agreements or individual negotiations.
Flexible working time policies should set out the range of possibilities.
a culture of work-life balance
a culture of work-life balance requires organisations to be proactive, creative
and innovative in balancing the needs and preferences of older employees with
those of the organisation. It is very important that managers, particularly
senior managers, believe in the benefits of good work-life balance. If they do
they will be encouraged to implement it themselves.
a working time credit scheme
time credit schemes can provide opportunities for career breaks and longer
periods of leave from the labour market. This could be particularly important
for older workers, who can credit their working time to enable them to take
putting in place flexible or gradual retirement schemes
or gradual retirement schemes that enable workers to progressively reduce their
working hours as they approach statutory retirement age can be an alternative
for workers who may otherwise, because of work stress or ill health, have taken
specific schemes for older workers in stressful or heavy work
Specific schemes can be developed for
older workers that are working shift work, heavy work or stressful working
situations. By simply reducing or changing the working hours of workers in
these situations can be critical to retaining older workers who may in the past
have taken early retirement. This can also help to enhance the company’s
profile and culture. For example, some companies have changed shift patterns
so that older workers can work part-time, in others schemes have been
introduced to release
workers from one shift per week, or through measures to increase holiday leave
or reduce weekly working hours. These measures can help to prevent exhaustion
and improve the quality of working life for older workers, as well as showing
the older worker that the company values their contribution, while recognising
their needs and requirements.
the case for flexible working hours in recruitment and retention programmes
that visibly promote flexible working hours will find that they are attractive
to older workers. This should be included in job advertisements and job
specifications as a way of attracting older workers.
training for managers
training and support to managers so that they can effectively implement and
manage flexible working hours and come up with solutions to work-life balance
that accommodate older workers. Mangers need to be aware of the advantages of
flexible working time to the organisation.
A concern about an ageing workforce and
the need to retain the best staff has prompted the company to address age
related diversity. An innovative life-course policy for employees aged 62 years
and over has been introduced with the objective of providing greater
flexibility and the opportunity for older workers to reduce working hours on a
phased basis, without a major impact on pay. It works by enabling workers at
the age of 62 years to reduce their working time by 10 per cent, at the age of
63 years by 20 per cent, at the age of 64 years by 30 per cent and at the age
of 65 years by 40 per cent. This enables the company to retain older workers
(who in the past used to leave the company at the age of 62 years) whilst
giving older workers more choices of working for a longer period of time on
reduced hours. The solution is agreed
between the manager and the employee. In some cases flexible working hours can
be agreed for older workers under the age of 62 years. The company has a
comprehensive work-life balance policy designed to retain employees of all
ages. The company’s human resources policy for older workers entitles older
workers to extra holiday leave – one week extra from the age of 62 years and two
weeks from the age of 65 years. Older workers can also have the opportunity to
work part-time and with a ten per cent extra salary to compensate for this. A
sign on fee and work only for the Spring, Summer and Autumn for maintenance
work is available in different regions and also across the whole of the
country. In this scheme, employees do not work during the winter months. This
initiative was introduced three years ago to avoid laying off workers.
out a working time survey of older workers
out a survey to find out the working time preferences of older workers. You can
also follow this up with focus groups and meetings with staff to examine what
are the best arrangements to meet the needs of employees and the needs of the
flexible working hours to all workers over the life-cycle
offering flexible working hours to everyone you can help to make everyone feel
valued and let people that are working full-time know that this is an option
for them in the future if their circumstances change. This can also help to
change culture by sending the message that flexible working is positively
encouraged. Include older workers that are working flexibly in training,
professional development and team meetings. Do not assume that if someone works
flexibly or part-time that they are any less committed to their work.
between employers and trade unions
participation and consultation of trade unions in the development of policies
and practices on flexible working hours are an essential prerequisite to
balancing the working time schedules of all staff. Agreements can be developed
on flexible working hours that are age neutral, but agreements can also specify
flexible working hours options for older staff.
about flexible working
Accommodating older workers who wish to
remain in the labour market means acknowledging and recognising that they may
face limitations and require flexible working, part-time work or reduced
working hours (Loretto et al 2005).
According to research by the UK’s National Audit Office
(2004) there are up to one million potential workers above the age of 50 who
are partly discouraged from actively seeking employment by the lack of flexible
work options. Government’s cannot afford to ignore these factors if it is
serious about reaching its targets for increased labour force
Many governments also recognise the need
for a sustainable framework for retirement provision, including more choices
about retirement. Several governments have considered flexible retirement as a
way of retaining older workers in the workplace.
2.3.2 The role of the social partners
Partnership working between employers and unions can
help organisations to implement and develop a culture and practice of age diversity
and work-life balance. Partnership working requires there to be a shared
commitment to the objectives, goals and success of the organisations. A key outcome of partnership working is
the achievement of joint solutions, achieved through joint discussions,
projects and initiatives. One way of taking these issues forward is to
establish a partnership group made up of union representatives, staff and
managers. By promoting
partnership working unions, staff and managers can promote shared solutions.
This can help to create an organisational style of discussion rather than
negotiation. It will also be important
to take time to consult with managers, employees and trade unions in
order to achieve commitment to changing patterns of work and the smooth
introduction and implementation of changes.
What are the working time options
available to older employees?
There are a large number of different
working time options available to older workers. The most commonly used
flexible working time arrangements are described below
Working hours/ the number of hours worked: Full-time, part-time, job-share, flexible retirement and reduced overtime.
Working hours/ when people work: Flexi-time, compressed hours, annualised hours, shifts and shift swapping, reductions in the number of shifts worked by older workers, self-rostering, extra hours and time banks, and working time accounts.
Working hours/ where people work: on employers premises, tele-working, working from home.
Leave arrangements: short and long leave (paid and unpaid), career breaks, holiday leave, family and carers leave.
Other work-life balance arrangements: health, fitness and sports facilities, lifelong learning, personal development and training.
2.3.3 Developing a company work-life balance policy
work-life balance policy can be useful in establishing clear rules and
entitlements, whilst also showing that the organisation has a visible
commitment to work-life balance that can help with the recruitment of staff. As
a life-cycle initiative it should be made available to all staff. It is
important to agree the policy with unions and staff as this is an area that has
a direct impact on the working lives of staff.
of what to include in a work-life balance policy:
- Identify the scope of flexible working. For example, if all employees have the right to work flexibly is the organisation able to put this into practice? In most cases policies on work-life balance are explicit in stating that requests for flexible working will be accommodated as long as they do not adversely affect the needs of services. (In some countries, for example, the UK, Germany and the Netherlands there is a legal right to request changes in working hours).
- Set out the range of flexible working options and entitlements that are available to staff. It will be important to set these entitlements within the framework of legislation on working time.
- Make reference to equal opportunities in the policy. This can include specific points regarding flexible working time, for example, for older workers, disabled workers, parents and carers.
- Consult widely with staff teams and unions and ensure they are fully involved in the drawing up of the policy.
- Ensure that the policy is widely disseminated to all staff, for example, through a staff handbook or booklet that sets out the policy and options.
with older workers can be a very effective way of finding out about their needs
and perspectives. This can be carried out through a variety of methods
including staff surveys, focus groups, staff seminars and discussion groups.
Checklist of issues to consider in carrying out a work-life balance survey in your company
are the current working hours (full-time, part-time etc.)
employees have opportunities to work flexibly, if so in what way?
average what are normal working hours? Do employees regularly work over these
hours? Do meetings extend over normal working times, thereby making it
difficult for parents or older workers?
work-life balance options would employees like to avail of (e.g. changes or
reductions in shift working, flexi-time, part-time work, partial retirement,
shorter working hours, longer working hours, working from home etc) ?
employees change their working patterns, how would the new work arrangement
affect colleagues and service provision?
would be the main purpose of a change in working hours (e.g. leisure, hobbies,
personal developing and training, improve health and well-being, participation
in voluntary or community work etc.)?
is the employee’s satisfaction with current work-life balance?
are the main causes of imbalance in work and personal life (e.g. long working
hours, work pressures, stress, caring responsibilities, ill health, etc.)
could employers do to improve employee work-life balance?
enable workers between the ages of 55 and 58 years to progressively reduce
their working hours to between 80 per cent and 70 per cent of normal working
hours. This is a voluntary scheme that allows older workers to discuss working
hours flexibility with their line managers. Because normal retirement age in Switzerland is 65 years, the objective is to retain older workers in
the workplace until they reach this age. The company is currently discussing
the implications of shorter working hours on pensions and social insurance.
Agder Energy, Norway
Energy has a scheme to motivate employees to stay at work beyond 62 years has
been achieved by reducing the working hours of older workers, without an
adverse effect on their pay and pension rights.
The initiative has been well received and there is a reflection of a
more positive attitude to older workers in the company. From 1st July
2008 Norwegian employees at
the age of 60 years became entitled to work shorter working hours. Employees in
Norway have 25 working days holiday per year. Employees over the
age of 60 years have an entitlement of six additional days holiday per year. In
Norway, the ordinary retirement age is 67 years for all employees.
Collective agreements make it possible for some groups of workers to retire at
an earlier age, while workers can continue working until the age of 70 years. Due
to a relatively large uptake of disability pensions, the average retirement age
in practice is around 60 years. All employees covered by a tariff agreement –
this covers around 60 per cent of all employees in Norway - have the possibility to take early retirement from the
age of 62 years. Norwegian government policy has emphasised the need to keep
older employees in the workplace for as long as possible. Surveys show that
three out of every four people at the age of 60 years want to work. In the past
specific problems have existed regarding taxation for people between the ages
of 67 and 70 years, which meant that it was not possible to have income from
work without loosing a proportion of their
pensions. However the government has changed this so that pensions are not