The Contributions of Business, Unions and Government to Promoting Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance has become an important social issue. Work-life balance can be defined as ‘the relationship between the institutional and cultural times and spaces of work and non-work in societies where income is predominantly generated and distributed through labor markets’ work balance are therefore those that intentionally or otherwise increase the flexibility and autonomy of the worker in negotiating attention and presence in workplaces (Gregory &Milner 2009).

Gregory &Milner (2009) states that Work-life balance has come to the forefront of policy discourse in developed countries in recent years, against a backdrop of globalization and rapid technological change, an aging population, and concerns over labor market participation rates. Within the European Union, the reconciliation of work and family has become a core concern for policy and encouraged debate and policy intervention at national levels.

Work-life balance implies the extent to which one is involved in their work and satisfied with their work role and family role. With work-life balance, individuals can balance their work and personal lives to manage commitments like family responsibilities, study, sport, and community involvement. Where there is no balance between work and life the employees experience stress and they are not able to be productive to the maximum.

Employees with work conflicts are more likely to miss more workdays are less committed to their jobs and are more likely to leave their jobs. Work-life unbalance causes conflicts between the employees and their children and their spouses hence their relationships are strained. Unmet demand for work-life balance is on the increase. It is therefore very important that other stakeholders join hands in ensuring that there is a work-life balance for the employees (Kersely et al 2006).

The women, in particular, find it hard to achieve a work-life balance due to their many responsibilities. This is especially so for women with children and married ones. They find themselves in a dilemma as to whether to put their careers on hold and take care of their young children or to continue working and hire domestic workers. They also have to have to keep competing with their male counterparts and they also risk losing their jobs.

This is because most employers discriminate against them when it comes to employment. They do so because they do not want the extra cost they come with especially when they go on maternity leave and this has to be paid for. These women with child care have a lot of stress-related to work as they try to balance between the two roles. A lack of flexibility in workplaces weighs heavily on women who have caring responsibilities. Women are more involved in work related to domestic and caring than men (Kirton et al 2005).

How Do the Governments Play A Role in Promoting Work-Life Balance?

The government promotes work-life balance in various ways. One is by introducing policies that ensure the balance is struck. For instance, they have maternity and paternity leaves. This is supposed to ensure that the parents get time to spend with their newborn babies and get time to bond with them. The government needs to maintain and reinforce this policy.

In many countries, flexible working arrangements are advocated for to ensure that the employees are not stressed and they can choose the time that is flexible with them. For instance, they can choose to work at home or even part-time.

The governments are increasingly becoming committed to reducing the social, health and business costs of work-life conflict. Some countries have launched policies that enhance work-life balance. They have started campaigns that promote voluntary compliance of employers to develop and implement work-life balance practices in their organizations. Some have countries such as New Zealand, UK, and Australia that has developed websites on work-life balance that avail things like newsletters publications and links to other relevant information on the legislation. Australia and New Zealand offer award programs to highlight those organizations that practice best policies. (Strachan &Burgess 1998). The UK legislation gives parents the right to request flexible working hours.

The campaigns include a variety of resources to support employers. They help the employers to evaluate whether work-life balance policies are well integrated into the organization’s plan. They also check whether the policies are being used by the employees. The governments help the employers to see that work-related stress costs the business more due to absenteeism and high turnover of employees thus reducing the conflict between work and life. This in turn ensures that the organizations get maximum benefits because money is saved through reduced sickness absence, stress, recruitment and training costs, and productivity is raised due to better morale.

Governments also support work-life balance through the implementation of an individual policy or isolated piece of legislation. France seeks to reduce working time and Belgium has a system of time credits. Ireland has introduced a “Work-Life Balance Day” and the U.S. resolution to proclaim “National Work and Family Month.” These efforts show governments’ efforts to put a work-life balance on their agenda (Andrews 2006).

In some countries, women are dismissed during pregnancy and maternity leaves. Some when they return to work, they go to lower grades. There is action across Europe against this and EU laws prohibit dismissals during pregnancy and maternity leaves. The woman must be able to return to her job without loss of pay or status. The law also protects the health and safety of pregnant women (Kirton et al 2005).

The government also introduced a paternity leave policy. This allows men to take leave when they have newborn babies. However, few men take this leave due to the cost involved as they may have to forfeit their pay. The government can promote work-life balance for the men by making it mandatory for the leave to be a paid one. In this way, the women get a helping hand with their newborn babies. This also will allow the fathers to fulfill their responsibility towards their newborn babies (Andrew 2006).

How do trade unions promote work-life balance?

Trade unions promote work-life balance through collective bargaining. They promote work-life balance by supporting provisions that promote work-life balance. The trade unions bargain for better terms for the employees through their space for action is constricted (Gregory & Milner 2009). The trade unions try to fight for gender equality in workplaces. This is because women are disadvantaged in the workplace through unlawful discrimination. They fight for the increased employability of women by spearheading campaigns towards the same. The trade unions also fight for the working time structure in their countries, especially in the UK and France. If they achieve this then more employees can work at hours that do not conflict with their schedules. This will ensure more productivity and satisfaction.

They also bargain for working time reduction as it is noted that working long hours reduces productivity. The trade unions can do this if they are in a good relationship with the management.

However, most trade unions are unable to fight for work-life balance especially for women because most of them are headed by males (Dickens et al 1998). This is because women who mostly work on a part-time basis are not given leadership positions as they are seen as less committed than their male counterparts who work full time. This makes it very hard for them to voice their concerns.

The role of trade unions in work-life balance is relatively marginal in most countries as they tend to be relatively weak when it comes to articulating issues concerning employees. More needs to be done to strengthen the trade unions to be in a better position to bargaining for employees.

How do businesses promote work-life balance?

Businesses promote work-life balance in many ways. To begin with, businesses promote work-life balance in many ways. They have initiatives that help to bring about work lie balance. They include flexible working hours, working from home, job sharing. Leave arrangements: parental leaves, career leave, cultural or religious leaves, and study leave. Health programs such as stress management workshops or resources, employee advisory services, and general advice on work-life balance (Ellen et al 2008).

Businesses have realized that they need to tackle this challenge of work-life balance. In so doing they have made their working environments more conducive to workers and hence attractive to employees. When businesses offer work-life balance programs they can recruit people from diverse backgrounds because they have moved away from standard working arrangements. They recruited employees who consider the organization their employer of choice and hence stay in their jobs for long. This helps the businesses to reduce their training costs due to reduced turnover. By encouraging work-life balance the businesses.

The organizations by developing programs to fit their employees they increase the ability of their staff to attend training courses and this enables them to increase their productivity. The diverse range of employees can take advantage of development and promotional opportunities (Erman 2004).

Businesses deal with the problem of absenteeism by having flexible work hours for example job sharing, returns from leaves, assisting employees to address stress issued through individual or group training programs and counseling services, discussing flexible working practices. The businesses have also recognized the role played or rather the challenges faced by their women employees. Women are disadvantaged in workplaces and especially when they are pregnant. Some have come up with attractive packages for these women like allowing them to work from home. Some are given flexible working hours.

The businesses also give them paid maternity leaves. They also consider their health and safety during this time. This helps to reduce stress for these pregnant women and they can work better. (Strachan & Burgess 1998)

The business promotes work-life balance by incorporating sensitive practices in their organizations by having; workplace vision and value statements reflecting family and personal life responsibilities, family activities at the workplace, and incentives like telephone available for contact with family members during work hours and management training in family-friendly related work-life policies.

Finally, work-life balance ensures that the work environment is free of unlawful discrimination and harassment and people are valued for their diverse experiences, knowledge and abilities. Work-life balance issue is important and all the stakeholders should join hands in making the workplace conducive for the employers and the employees. This will go a long way in ensuring that conflicts between work roles and personal roles are minimized or eliminated.

References

Andrews K (2006) Minister’s report on Work and Family: The Importance of workplace flexibility in promoting balance between work and family, AGPS Canberra. Pocock B and Mast.

Dickens, L. Townley, B. and Winchester, D. (1998) Tackling Sex Discrimination through Collective Bargaining. London: HMSO.

Ellen, E. K. Leslie, B.H. Suzan, L (2008). Work-life initiatives and organizational change. Web.

Erman Smith H (2004) Work choices and women, Journal of Australian Political Economy 56: 126-144.

Gregory, A and Milner, SE 2009, ‘Trade unions and work-life balance: changing times in France and the UK?’, British Journal of Industrial Relations, 47 (1) , pp. 122-146.

Fleetwood, S. (2007) why work-life balance now. International Journal of human Resource Management. Vol 18 3 387-400.

Kersely, B. Alpin, C. Bryson, A. and Forth, J (2006). Inside the Workplace. Findings from the 2004 Workplace employment Relations Survey. London and New York: Rout ledge.

Kirton, G. and Greene, A. (2005) Gender, equality and industrial relations in new Europe; an Introduction. European Journal of Industrial Relations, vol 11 2: pp 141-149.

Taylor, R. (2009) The Future of Work-life Balance. Web.

Strachan G and Burgess J 1998 ‘The “family friendly” workplace: Origins, meaning and application at Australian workplaces’, International Journal of Manpower, vol. 19, no. 4, Pp.250-265.