Vol. 36 No. 2 2010
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ItemCentral Policies, Local Discretion: A Review of Employee Access to Work-Life Balance Arrangements in a Public Sector Agency(National Institute of Labour Studies, 2010)Work-life balance is one of the leading contemporary issues in the Australian employment environment, driven by both employee demands and employer desire to attract employees in a tight labour market. This article is about the important issue of employee experiences of work-life balance, and uses a public sector case study to consider progress and identify issues yet to be resolved. The research considers the extent of the work-life balance policy framework in the case study agency, employees' awareness of their work-life balance options, and employee perceptions about access to flexible working arrangements. The research finds that the agency has a solid policy framework and reasonably high levels of awareness. But it identifies a gap between employees' awareness and their perceptions of access, and uncovers many local-level barriers to access to flexible working arrangements. The article concludes that, to ensure employees have access to work-life balance, the agency should shift its focus to implementation of the policy framework through activities such as education and culture change activities.
ItemWorking Time Arrangements and Recreation: Making Time for Weekends When Working Long Hours(National Institute of Labour Studies, 2010)Work time spread across the entire week, rather than the conventional five day working week, has meant that workers are now less able to utilise longer stretches of recreation time especially in gaining access to a full two-day break over a weekend. This paper explores the issues contributing to workers' acquisition of longer recreation time. It seeks to determine the effects of this acquisition on the quality of working and non-working time for the employee through a study of work-life balance in the construction industry. It finds that weekends are more important to achieving work-life balance than shorter days over a six-day week when working long hours. Further, 'personal time' is a key element in achieving satisfactory work-life balance for employees, and this type of 'time' is often forgone in trying to integrate the necessary and desired non-work activities in the shorter time available to workers.
ItemWorking Time Flexibilities: A Paradox in Call Centres?(National Institute of Labour Studies, 2010)Call centres are a source of job growth in many parts of the world. Jobs in call centres are a manifestation of the opportunities offered by ICT, together with the internal restructuring of organisations, to reduce costs and to achieve efficiencies. Extensive research has been conducted on the labour process in call centres, with findings suggesting that the work is demanding and high-pressured, entailing continuous operations with shift work being the norm, repetition and extensive monitoring and control. Moreover, call centres often have many female operatives, linked to non-standard work arrangements and the provision of emotional skills. Two features of call centres that are generally understated in the literature are their flat organisational structures and the use of team structures as a form of work organisation. There are often formal and informal mechanisms that could support flexible working arrangements, especially in the context of work-life balance issues. In this article we examine the impact of call centre work on worklife balance. Given the evidence of a high pressure work environment, we explore the types of working time arrangements in call centres, how working hours are determined, and the impact of these hours on work-life balance. Findings derived from a survey of 500 call centre operatives across 10 call centre workplaces and focus group interviews suggest that, despite the intensive and regulated work regimes that there is flexibility available in terms of adjusting working time arrangements to support non work responsibilities. A reconciliation of these developments is considered.
ItemThe Work-Life Provisions of the Fair Work Act: A Compromise of Stakeholder Preference(National Institute of Labour Studies, 2010)This paper adopts a stakeholder analysis approach to policy formulation to consider the Rudd Government's success in achieving its work-life balance goals through the Fair Work Act (FWA), the extent to which it consulted stakeholders and the stakeholders to whom it listened. We explore the stated interests of key stakeholders in the process. We review the legislation, the parliamentary debates, and submissions to the Senate Inquiry into the Fair Work Bill 2008. We also consider the related and simultaneous Productivity Commission enquiry into paid parental leave up until the May 2009 federal budget. The paper concludes that the FWA develops a prescriptive response to work-life balance in establishing National Employment Standards for substantive issues including parental leave, maximum hours of work, paid personal carers' leave, compassionate leave, community service leave and the right to request flexible working arrangements. The Act is less prescriptive, however, in relation to process provisions, in particular the powers of the newly established 'Fair Work Australia' to hear and intercede in disputes regarding work-life balance provisions. There is a lack of clarity about individual flexibility agreements and the assessment of the 'Better Off Overall Test' (BOOT). The weak process provisions represent an uneasy and perhaps unworkable compromise between the competing demands of stakeholders.
ItemWork, Life, Flexibility and Workplace Culture in Australia: Results of the 2009 Australian Work and Life Index (AWALI) Survey(National Institute of Labour Studies, 2010)This article summarises the main results of the 2008 Australian Work and Life Index (AWALI) survey of Australian workers. The survey reveals significant issues for Australian workers that arise from the intersection of work with the rest of their lives. Hours of work, work overload and the nature of direct supervision and workplace culture emerge as important in explaining differences in work-life interaction. When hours are the same, those with caring responsibilities (especially mothers, and particularly single mothers) have worse work-life outcomes than others. The article briefly considers the implications of findings for labour market policy and workplace initiatives.
ItemBalancing Work, Family and Life: Introduction to the Special Edition(National Institute of Labour Studies, 2010)