I recently started a temporary contract for a public sector employer, which has been hard hit by Government cuts in recent years. It has become abundantly clear that total flexibility with regard to shift patterns is expected of all employees and personal commitments are sidelined as the employer struggles to deliver more services with fewer resources. It is not without its tensions but the bottom line from the employer is that it is paid work and those employed are the lucky ones with many more in the dole queue waiting to take our places.
I looked up Quaker Faith and Practice and found the following paragraph from 1992 that is still very relevant 20 years on.
Employers today, more and more, are demanding total commitment from their employees, often to the detriment of the employees’ health and ability to participate in family and community life. People are facing decisions about giving all their energy to their company and having nothing left for themselves or anyone else. Some have the courage to opt for a more balanced approach to life and work, where paid employment has an important place, but also allowing sufficient leisure time to be an active parent, to enrich family and community relationships and replenish their own spiritual reserves. I hope that meetings will support those who make such decisions and help them in any adjustments to their life that they have to make.
In the current economic climate I ask whether it is really possible to maintain a proper work-life balance. My experience of jobhunting these past few months is that employers are far less flexible than they were and it is often a case of all or nothing with little room for negotiation. However laudable the penultimate paragraph of Quaker Faith and Practice 23:56 may be, the economic resources to achieve a decent work-life balance are harder than ever to attain. My hope is that things may change as the economy recovers but my fear is that a number of regressive employment practices may be here to stay.