Employment Advice

Work Life Balance: How Employers can Support Employees

Work-life balance is a concept that holds different meanings for different individuals. While some associate it with working fewer hours, others believe flexibility in working hours is key. However, the common thread is the desire for a balance that allows individuals to excel both professionally and personally.

12 Jan 2024

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Esther Marshall

Esther Marshall

It is crucial for employers to understand the significance of work-life balance and their role in supporting employees to achieve it. In this article, we will explore the legal rights of employees, the duty of care employers have, and strategies to promote work-life balance in the workplace.

Understanding Employees’ Statutory Rights

Employees have certain statutory rights that employers must uphold to ensure a healthy work-life balance. These rights, outlined in the Working Time Regulations 1998, include rest periods, paid holiday entitlement, and limitations on working hours.

Rest Periods

To promote employee well-being, employers must allow their workers the following rest periods:

  • 11 hours of uninterrupted rest per day.
  • 24 hours of uninterrupted rest per week (or 48 hours per fortnight).
  • A rest break of 20 minutes when working more than six hours per day.

It is important to note that there are limited exemptions to these rights, and workers cannot contract out of them.

Paid Holiday Entitlement

Most employees who fall within the legal definition of a worker are entitled to 5.6 weeks (28 days) of paid holiday each year, pro-rated for part-time workers. This ensures that employees have the opportunity to take time off and rejuvenate, contributing to a better work-life balance.

Limitations on Working Hours

To protect the health and safety of workers, employers must ensure that each employee’s average working time, including overtime and work with other employers, does not exceed 48 hours per week. While many employees choose to opt out of this provision, conscientious employers should consider the original intent of the legislation – safeguarding workers’ wellbeing.

By adhering to these statutory rights, employers create an environment that promotes work-life balance and protects the health and safety of their employees.

The Employer’s Duty of Care

Employers have a duty of care towards their employees, extending to their health, safety, and overall wellbeing. This duty includes ensuring that employees are not working excessive hours, as research has linked long working hours and excessive workload to mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression. It is crucial for employers to recognise and address these concerns, as mental health conditions can be classified as disabilities.

When mental health conditions qualify as disabilities, employers may be required to make reasonable adjustments to support employees, such as reducing their hours or workload. Failure to make these adjustments can result in claims of disability discrimination and constructive dismissal. Employers also face the risk of accidents or further mental health issues arising from excessive working hours.

Ensuring healthy working practices not only helps fulfil legal obligations but also enhances job satisfaction, increases employee productivity, and fosters a positive work environment. By prioritising work-life balance, employers can build loyalty, improve employee retention, and contribute to the overall success of their organisation.

Strategies to Support Work-Life Balance

To support employees in achieving a healthy work-life balance, employers can implement various strategies and practices. Here are some examples:

Regular Communication and Workload Management

Regular communication with employees is essential to ensure they are given an achievable workload and are completing their tasks within a reasonable amount of time. Managers should engage in conversations to understand any additional support employees may require, which may contribute to a better work-life balance.

Monitoring working hours and email flow within teams can also help identify potential issues. Managers should be mindful of the times emails are being sent and have open discussions with their teams about working hours.

Flexible Working Arrangements

Implementing flexible working arrangements can significantly contribute to work-life balance. Employers can consider provisions such as:

  • Flexitime: Allowing employees to choose their start and finish times within defined core hours.
  • Remote Work: Enabling employees to work from home or other locations to accommodate personal needs.
  • Reduced Hours: Offering part-time options or job-sharing arrangements.
  • Compressed Work Week: Allowing employees to work longer hours over fewer days.

By providing flexibility, employers empower employees to manage their work and personal responsibilities effectively.

Conclusion

Work-life balance is pivotal for well-being and productivity. Employers, bound by legal and ethical responsibility, must support employees. Upholding statutory rights, fulfilling the duty of care, and implementing balance-promoting strategies create a positive work environment. Prioritising work-life balance benefits individuals and contributes to organisational success.

M&P Commentary

Esther Marshall, specialist in Employment law, said:

“It can be difficult for employers to balance the need to run an efficient and profitable business against their employee’s needs to have a good work / life balance. Certain employee rights are enshrined in law, however employers often find that going above and beyond those minimum rights can pay dividends. After all, a happy workforce is a more productive workforce. If you are unclear about what you as an employer should be doing to promote a good work / life balance, our specialist Employment team can provide expert advice.”

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