All entries for Sunday 26 October 2008
October 26, 2008
Question: With reference to your own experience, critically evaluate the idea that there is a business case for family friendly working practices.
Before answering the question, one might wonder if family friendly working practices are really important in my country (Spain). Some research has provided me with the following data:
60% of families with children have both parents working (INE, Instituto Nacional de Estadistica)
Family responsibilities are being increasingly shared between working men and women.
The high divorce rate its increasing the number of single parents with dependent children
The aging population (Spain is one of the countries with the lowest birth rate in the world) means that working people are increasingly responsible for the care of elderly relatives
The previous lead to some issues in the workplace:
About 65% of absences are related to family issues, caring for children, and dependent elderly, sick and disabled family members (INE, Instituto Nacional de Estadistica)
The performance of employees who have difficulty balancing work and family may suffer as their concentration, motivation and productivity will be affected.
Some employees may resign to meet family needs
Single parents need flexible work practices to remain employed
Non-custodial parents also need to balance work with family responsibilities.
These issues are more important as more skilled and experienced is the workforce and if there are difficulties in the labour market to find appropriate substitutes for the people leaving. In my case, I work with highly qualified human resources with a lot of experience and tacit knowledge about the customers and the industry, thus the costs (for example training costs) associated with the replacement of personnel leaving the company because of the impossibility to balance family and work are significant.
The short absences due to family issues (for example taking care of sick family members) are difficult to quantify, but will undoubtedly have an impact on the performance of the organization, mainly as an opportunity costs resulting from the time that the organisation is underperforming while the employee is away.
Finally, some people could just leave the company for another who offer better work-life balance characteristics. So, in this sense family friendly practices can also be used as a weapon, to debilitate competition attracting high skilled employees to our company.
Clearly, family friendly practices can alleviate some of the work-life balance issues. Some benefits for the employer would be:
Increased ability to retain skilled employees
Improved productivity and reduced staff turnover
Increased return rate of female employees from maternity leave
Reduced amount of people leaving due to family issues and therefore, reduced recruitment and training costs
Reduced absenteeism, lateness and stress in the workplace
Increased flexibility to meet varying work load demands
Fulfilment of equal opportunity objectives and legal requirements
Enhanced corporate image
Employer a competitive edge when recruiting
On the other hand, the employees will perceive an increase in job security in knowing that the employer understands and supports workers with family responsibilities which will probably lead to improved motivation and job satisfaction.
Although these costs and benefits are difficult to quantify and in correspondence is impossible to tell if the case is advantageous for the employer in terms of improved business results, it looks like there is strong support for a positive business case for family friendly working practices.
Nonetheless, the convenience of the business case depends on a number of context characteristics. We have assumed a situation when the cost of replacement is considerable, thus easy substitutes can’t be found in the market. Perhaps this narrowly-defined situation is not common in the majority of the industry. If this is the case, employers on those industries could consider if there is really a business case for their company. However, this would lead us to the philosophical discussion about the purpose of the enterprise. If its maximizing benefits for the owners while providing benefits for the whole of society, family friendly practices should be in any case considered.
Helen Newell, Warwick Business School (2008) “Course Material – Human Resource Management”
INE (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica) Website. www.ine.es
Marchington, M. and Wilkinson, A. (2005), 'Human Resource Management at Work' (3rd edn), London: CIPD.