Vol. 33 No. 2 2007
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ItemThe Right to Request Flexible Working: A 'Very British' Approach to Gender (In)Equality?(National Institute of Labour Studies, 2007)The UK has introduced an unusual right for parents of young children to be able to request a change to their working arrangements, and an obligation on employers to consider such requests seriously. This paper examines why such a right was adopted in the UK, and assesses its impact. Different models of gender equality are examined and the argument made that movement towards a universal care-giver/worker model is likely to be the most effective way of promoting gender equality, particularly in the UK context. The paper goes on to consider whether and under what conditions the right to request flexible working can contribute to furthering gender equality through such a model in the UK and similar societies.
ItemBudgeting for Work-Life Balance: The Ideology and Politics of Work and Family Policy in Australia(National Institute of Labour Studies, 2007)Since its election in 1996 the Howard Government has invested billions of dollars in Australian families with children. Much of this money has been delivered through policies the Government claims will 'support families in the choices they wish to make' about how they combine paid work and family life (Howard 2005). This paper evaluates three areas of Commonwealth budget expenditure on work and family policy: the Family Tax Benefit; the Maternity Payment; and the Child Care Benefi t and Tax Rebate. Analysis of the structure of these benefits highlights how a traditional ideology of gender and gender relations is embedded within the policy framework and delivers greater financial support to households in which women prioritise staying at home to care over paid employment. The policy bias toward traditional gender relations makes government rhetoric about choice problematic and shows that the work and family tensions that exist at the level of the household also exist at the policy level, with negative implications for women's labour market participation.
ItemWhat Does Family-Friendly Really Mean? Wellbeing, Time, and the Quality of Parents' Job(National Institute of Labour Studies, 2007)We present a brief index of parent job quality, classifying jobs by four working conditions: paid parental leave, perceived security, control and fl exible work times. Jobs vary from optimal (with all conditions) to poor (none or one condition), and we describe differences in mothers' and fathers' job quality by education; work hours; and casual, fixed-term or permanent employment. Analyses are based on a large, nationally representative sample of parents with children aged 4-5 years (the Growing Up in Australia study; N=2,164 mothers; 2,614 fathers). Fathers were more likely to have higher quality jobs than mothers, but both had poorer quality jobs if employed casually or part-time. High-quality jobs were associated with better parent wellbeing, a finding replicated in a second, smaller study. Sustaining the wellbeing of working parents should be an aim of family friendliness. The index gives workplaces and government a way to benchmark and evaluate parents' jobs.
ItemMarginalising Women in the Labour Market: 'Wage Scarring' Effects of Part-time Work(National Institute of Labour Studies, 2007)Australian women are encouraged to use part-time work to alleviate work and family imbalance. Accordingly, part-time work enabling women to maintain attachment to their career, to acquire human capital, and to add to their salaries is integral to a family-friendly society. UK research fi nds that rather than advance careers, part-time work experience is associated with a reduction in earnings. This paper reports on the fi rst Australian attempt to undertake analogous analysis. Using the Negotiating the Life Course data, the only large-sample Australian data set containing information on earnings and part-time and full-time work experience, we fi nd that part-time work experience does not lead to financial rewards in full-time jobs. In fact part-time work generally impinges on wage growth. We advocate for policies that facilitate movement between part-time and full-time hours in the same job, the equivalent treatment of part-time and full-time workers, and family-friendly jobs, regardless of hours worked.
ItemPaid Maternity Leave in 'Best Practice' Organisations: Introduction, Implementation and Organisational Context(National Institute of Labour Studies, 2007)To date, Australia has no national paid maternity leave scheme, and access to such leave remains limited. In the private and community sectors in particular, workplace provision of paid maternity leave relies on individual enterprise initiatives. However, we still know relatively little about why and on what basis individual enterprises introduce paid maternity leave. Drawing on case studies of seven 'best practice' enterprises that introduced or increased their provision of paid maternity leave, this paper outlines the diverse rationales and contexts that shape such organisational decisions and the ways in which they are implemented. Paid maternity leave remains fundamental to realising equal employment opportunity for women, yet the research fi ndings suggest that its potential effect can be constrained by limits on formal entitlement and the basis for leave as well as by the practical availability of other work-family benefits.
ItemMaternity Leave and Return to Work in Australia - Accessibility and Use in a State Utility(National Institute of Labour Studies, 2007)The paper examines access to and use of maternity leave and return to work policies in a large organisation. The analysis is set within the context of evidence from a recent national survey which illustrates the combinations of paid and unpaid leave arrangements utilised by Australian mothers around the birth of a child. The case study provides insight into these combinations and shows how the capacity to access the most advantageous arrangements varies within a particular organisational setting. Employees who are closer to head office, who have developed a good knowledge of current policies and organisational history, and who are in a position to negotiate effectively, tend to be relatively advantaged. However, we suggest that underlying the complexity of arrangements and links between 'availability, perceived accessibility and employee use' of these policies (Budd and Mumford 2006), are deeper barriers, including internalisation and acceptance of work-life tension by female employees.