October 26, 2008

Human Resource Management Lesson 8 exercise

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.

- 4 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Hi

    Very good attempt at a critical evaluation of both sides of the business case for family friendly policies.


    28 Oct 2008, 20:09

  2. Hi

    As you have applied for an extension (I’m not sure if it has been granted) I have looked your blogs over again to see if there is anything more I can usefully add at this stage.

    For this task there is not much I can add other than perhaps you could consider the possible ‘negatives’ more from a business perspective – perhaps issues such as fairness as some people ‘appear’ to be getting an advantage from family friendly polices etc.



    29 Oct 2008, 19:54

  3. Hi John,

    First of all, many Thanks for your all comments through all the blog. Yes, I’ve been granted an extension. I asked for it in order to have time to incorporate some additional thoughts inspired by your comments. They’re extremley sharp and useful comments and helped me to reflect more profoundly on the matter.



    29 Oct 2008, 22:08

  4. Hi

    Thnnk you. The best advice I was ever given was from a management consultant many years ago. It was “Believe nothing of what you are told and only half of what you actually see yourslef.” Good advice for any mnager and also in relation to academic theory and models. They all have weaknesses and faults – you just have to think hard enough and question them often enough to find them!



    01 Nov 2008, 16:37

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