Exploring Factors that Shape the Inclusion and Nature of Work–Life Balance Policies within Collective Agreements in New Zealand
The aim of this research is to identify factors that influence the nature and inclusion of work–life balance (WLB) policies within collective employment agreements (CEAs) in New Zealand organisations. Due to the increasing challenges of dual careers, aging population and single parent families, WLB practices are progressively becoming more significant issues amongst employees and management in New Zealand workplaces. As a result, identifying these factors is crucial in informing organisational human resources policy development, its design and implementation on issues pertaining to WLB. Similarly, it informs the government on policy changes and legislation, at the same time enlightening trade unions on bargaining strategies. In the first phase, an in-depth analysis is carried out on collective employment agreements (CEAs) housed within the Industrial Relations Centre at Victoria University of Wellington. The focus is to develop a comprehensive coding typology of collective employment agreement (CEA) provisions which constitute WLB measures. This process is carried out in order to identify WLB provisions in CEAs negotiated from 1998 to 2008. The second phase is concerned with the identification of any WLB policy provisions outside those included in the CEA. This dimension is critical to the research as it offers insights into the extent to which companies have shifted beyond the statutory minimum for WLB arrangements and the factors that have prompted them to take these voluntary actions. The study covers the period from 1998 to 2008. It is critical to evaluate this subject between these two benchmark years, as it allows ample time after the enactment of two cornerstone employment relations Acts – the Employment Contracts Act 1991 (ECA) and the Employment Relations Act 2000 (ERA). Second, and related to this, they enable a comparison of WLB initiatives under quite different social policy, political, economic – and indeed, bargaining – arrangements (Deeks, Parker, & Ryan, 1994; Rasmussen, 2009). The study discovered that the inclusion of WLB policies in collective employment agreement in New Zealand was mainly determined by legislation, in particular the Employment Relations Act 2000 and The Employment Relations (Flexible Working Arrangements) Amendment Act 2007. These two legislative changes made a positive impact in the recognition and response to the demands of employee well-being. Similarly, there are other factors that made an impact in the inclusion of WLB policies within CEAs. These include industry trade union density and female participation rate at industry level, the type of industry (health and community services, education, government administration and defence services, finance and insurance services being more prominent providers) and type of organisation (whether public or private ownership). It emerged that public organisations are at the forefront in terms of providing WLB policies. The research highlight the significance of ensuring that organisations recognise the issues pertaining to WLB, at the same time recognising the role of trade unions and collective bargaining as an effective mechanism for the instigation of WLB policies.