Issues pertaining to work-life balance have become more important in recent years on the part of employers, employers, unions and the government in developed countries. The essay discusses the concept of work-life balance and the reasons why it will benefit the business as well as the employees. It explains the different contributions or roles of the government, labor unions and the government in promoting work-life balance practices. Lastly, the essay also discusses some factors that will shape the work-life balance issue in the 21st century.
Definition. According to Parkes (2008), work-life balance is an individual’s ability to meet their work and family commitments, as well as other non-work responsibilities and activities. Background and definition about work-life balance Gregory and Milner (2009) mention that work-life balance practices in the workplace are those that increase the flexibility and autonomy of the worker in negotiating their attention or time and presence in the workplace, while work-life balance policies exist where those practices are intentionally designed and implemented.
They suggest that priorities of employees to balance their work-life are categorized into three types: working time arrangements, parental leave entitlements, and childcare. Employees have a tendency to express their job satisfaction and organizational commitment whenever these priorities are met through organizational work-life initiatives. Work-life balance is positively associated with the fairness and support of supervisors, understanding of family needs by the organization, and support for activities and responsibilities outside of work (Parkes 2008).
The length of hours of work is the most important variables for work-life balance because employees who work fewer hours have higher work-life balance. The primary causes of the imbalance in work, life and family comes much from the social, economic and demographic changes of the society than from the changes in the organizational systems, structures and philosophies. In order to address the growing competition, organizations have adopted various management practices considered important to their survival.
These may include performance management and results measuring systems, just-in-time production, reduced lead times, and extended customer service hours (Barrette). These management practices have put additional pressure on employees to increase their work productivity and performance. Furthermore, some employees are obligated to work beyond regular working hours because of market globalization. However, innovations in telecommunications have kept people more connected to their family while simultaneously enabling them to work.
Barrette states that the spillover of work into personal life and the overload of work are affecting the time and energy of most employees and have consequences on the health of parents and their families. Job insecurity, unstable employment, the need to extend work hours, the complexity of work roles, and unpredictable work schedules depending on customer demands for increased performance affect the challenge of making a balance between work and family life.
Moreover, the shift to a service-based economy from a manufacturing-based economy has changed the conditions and characteristics of work, making it harder to balance work and family (Barrette). Government policy for work-family The Employment Relations Act 1999 in Great Britain establishes the legal minimum requirement for employers with respect to certain rights of employees. The Act includes the provision for maternity leave, conditions under which an employees may be absent for the purposes of caring for a child, and provision relating to time off for dependants (Hogarth, Hasluck & Pierre, 2000).
Flexible working schedules can give both employers and employees with much needed flexibility to maintain the employment relationship. Hogarth, Hasluck & Pierre (2000) mention that there is low incidence of flexible working time arrangements, even flexi time, and a greater proportion of women working with term-time contracts. The flexible working time arrangements and non-standard working times in the country demonstrate the degree of variability of working arrangements in the economy, which are likely to have relevance to work-life balance (Hogarth, Hasluck & Pierre, 2000).
Policy-makers have widely accepted the work-life balance practices to be positive. Such employment policies, which recognize and take into consideration of the fact that employees have responsibilities beyond the workplace, lead to reductions in employee turnover and skilled employee retention, and increased organizational commitment and loyalty. Employers recognize the business case for achieving a good balance between the demands of work and life (Hogarth, Hasluck & Pierre, 2000).
Those employees with lower occupational hierarchy are sometimes not eligible for some benefits, like occupational maternity pay, or not aware of relevant organizational policies. The senior or managerial employees are qualified to take advantage of work-life balance practices but may be reluctant to do so because of the perception that may affect their career advancement (Hogarth, Hasluck & Pierre, 2000).
The government policy for work-family balance in the Netherlands includes a right to parental and other leaves to care for family members, an employee’s right to adjust working time, and an initiative to make it easier for people to combine work and care and to help older workers continue to work as long as possible (Todd). In Sweden, the government also developed legislation that may help employees reduce work-life conflict, particularly for women. These include flexible and extended parental leave benefits, sick leave, flexible working time, and sabbatical leave (Todd).
Role of Union in Promoting Work-Family Balance The role of labor union is to improve the working conditions and economic status of workers through collective bargaining agreement with employers. The Trades Union Congress in Great Britain is the one that coordinate and establish policy on behalf of the entire labor movement. The main purpose of unionism in the United States is to maintain craft standards and to prevent employers from employing untrained workers and foreign labor.
The European. Unions are more engaged in more partisan political agenda. According to Hyman and Summers (2007), employees do influence work-life balance issues in the financial services sector, and work-life balance initiatives had greater breadth, codification and quality where independent unions were recognized. Unions barely played an important role in the process of introducing and implementing work-life balance policies and that initiatives made by employers often put them in a defensive position (Gregory & Milner, 2009).
The British unions played a role in collective bargaining on diversity. However, their role is occurring at a time when their influence and capability to act at workplace level is relatively weak. Negotiations over work-life balance by unions in France took place when the process of bargaining decreased working time in the country. Employer-led initiatives gave a room for unions in the country to be involved and to attempt to begin the initiative towards the adoption of employee-friendly policies.
Labor market has affected the capacity and means of workers to sustain themselves. While the labor market enables workers to increase their income and their capacity to buy market-based sources of pleasure and support, labor market is also the place where employees exclude their other activities, including private care of their self and others. Several young people desire more time with their parents instead of additional money through more parental work (Pocock, 2006).
Some workers are having a hard time to balance work-life. The problem of balancing work-life must be learned in the concept of labor market dynamics and trends in working time. Other problems relating to work-life balance are the changing workplaces, changing values and goals, changing roles, changing support structures, and changing families and households. Provision and benefit that relate with work-family balance from Business.
The provisions concerning work-life balance practices provided by employers in Great Britain include statutory leave entitlements, new working parent legislation, flexible working time arrangements, homeworking, maternity rights, paternity leave, time off for dependants, and childcare and other support for working parents (Woodland, Simmonds, Thornby, Fitzgerald, & McGee) . The main benefit gained by employers in Great Britain from implementing work-life balance practices is having a happier workforce. Other benefits include increase in employee retention and staff motivation.
Employers in the country perceive that work-life balance practices had a positive effect on employee relations, employee motivation and commitment, labor turnover, employee recruitment, absenteeism and labor productivity. Employers who have provision of flexible working time practices and leave arrangements have improved financial performance compared with their competitors who do not have these types of arrangements. Many employers believed that work-life balance practices are more cost-effective amidst concerns regarding staff shortages (Woodland, Simmonds, Thornby, Fitzgerald, & McGee).
Work-life balance practices in the Europe were established as a result of government legislation and are based mainly on social responsibility. Europe provides a maximum of 48-hour work week to maintain the safety and health of employees. It also offers paternity leave, four weeks mandatory vacation, support for childcare, and telecommuting. Different countries in the European Union adopt more strict regulations on employers which limit their flexibility in offering work-life balance programs.
Several companies also experienced remarkable financial benefit as a result of the work-life balance practices. Work-family balance in the 21st century The three trends that will shape the value of work-life balance in the 21st century are the increasing competition, which depends on employee relationships with customers and suppliers in order to become competitive; changing workforce; and the desire to have more balance with work and family. The labor force in the 21st century is more likely to be half female who are managing households and dual incomes out of necessity.
The shift in demographic population implies that all people desire flexibility at different points in their working lives (Hutton, 2005). Conclusion The work-life balance approaches of the government, labor unions and businesses are important to employees who are trying to earn a living and at the same time to have quality time with their family. Each of them must cooperate in order to maintain and improve the existing work-life practices for present and future generations, particularly in addressing future labor issues.