What Is a Work-Life Policy?

Mary McMahon

Work-life policy is the development of procedures to address concerns about the work and life balance, increase diversity in the workplace, and maintain employee satisfaction and loyalty. This can include regulatory policy set by government agencies, like minimum leave mandates to protect parents who need to take time off for a new family member. It also involves policies set by individual workplaces to meet the specific needs of their personnel.

Work-life policies make sure parents can have time with family.
Work-life policies make sure parents can have time with family.

Balancing work and life can be challenging in a variety of workplaces as people deal with issues like caring for ill family members, raising children, and the desire for personal development. Consistent work-life policy can protect the interests of employees and may benefit employers in the long term. The policy allows workers, without penalty, to take leave, request flexible hours, and make other adjustments in their work schedules to meet personal needs.

Companies with a comprehensive and progressive work-life policy may be viewed as more appealing by prospective employees, and can have higher employee retention rates. Some examples of policies a workplace might implement include the accumulation of paid vacation time, paid family or medical leave, flex hours, provision of childcare at company facilities, and encouragement of personal development. A company may help staff members go back to school, participate in seminars and workshops for personal development, and so forth.

Government regulations on work-life policy can vary by nation. Many governments pass regulations to address concerns about the potential for discrimination and to boost employment of minorities in the workplace. Policies may provide for things like leave to care for a new baby, and protection of leave requests associated with religious holidays. Some critics of work-life policy regulations argue that they can contribute to discrimination; for example, a company may be reluctant to hire women of childbearing age out of concern that they will take advantage of generous maternity leave policies mandated by the government.

Individual companies can think about a number of issues when they develop their own work-life policy frameworks. These can include the overall goal and mission of the company, the type of employees it wants to attract, and existing government regulations. Some companies may think ahead to proposals to change legislation or introduce new policy, and may build flexibility into their policies to anticipate these changes. More generous policies can be more expensive to administer, but may result in higher productivity and satisfaction, and thus could pay for themselves.

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