Work-life culture praised

December 1, 2006

Accolade for Liverpool John Moores could lure staff. Olga Wojtas reports

Liverpool John Moores has become the first UK university to earn an Investors in People award for promoting work-life balance, giving it a unique advantage in the academic recruitment market.

All staff can take advantage of flexible working, from job sharing, semester-only working and occasional working from home to enhanced maternity, paternity and adoption leave and above-average holiday entitlement.

Staff also have access to occupational health and counselling services, and reduced rates for the university's sports facilities. David Blythe, an IiP adviser who has worked with LJMU for seven years as an external consultant, said that this boosted LJMU's attractiveness as an employer.

Staff scanning job advertisements were increasingly checking whether an institution had IiP status and its work-life balance model award, he said.

"It is a good indication of what the culture is like in the organisation," he added.

Mr Blythe, who works with several universities and colleges, said that while institutions were taking an increasing interest in work-life balance, multi-campus LJMU had taken the lead in embedding this throughout.

He predicted other universities would follow suit. "Some have already implemented (examples of) good practice and I am sure this will encourage them to go that extra mile for assessment."

The IiP's external assessment involves interviews with university employers selected at random. Meriel Box, an IiP adviser and LJMU's head of staff development, said: "This is on everybody's agenda in the university sector.

It's about trying to ensure that our staff are supported and looked after in a pressurised, increasingly difficult environment."

Ms Box said she was happy to talk to other institutions about LJMU's experience. Progress on work-life balance was patchy in the sector, she said, and LJMU had broken new ground in ensuring a consistent approach to flexible working across the university.

This does not mean that staff are obliged to pursue a particular form of working. Alison Wild, pro vice-chancellor and university secretary, said:

"LJMU is committed to negotiating specific solutions for employees based on their individual circumstances."

The University and College Union said that the university had further to go before it would be satisfied. "We know at least one senior member of staff who has for some years taken lengthy periods working from home," regional officer Adrian Jones said. But he added that the union was "in the dark" about the development.

olga.wojtas@thes.co.uk

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