Work-Life Balance

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Work-life balance essay
Work-life balance is an important and complex issue in today’s society. This essay will firstly outline the changing nature of the working environment in regards to the changing roles of women. It will then define work-life balance, specifically in relation to women in the workforce. Furthermore, it will assess what businesses are doing about work-life balance and argue that current policies and practices that are in place, such as flexible working hours, are not entirely effective. It will then go on to critically analyse various legislation, government policies and incentives, identifying major flaws within this legislation. It will further examine the presence of unions and acknowledge both the solutions and limitations of various businesses in achieving a sustainable work-life balance for working women. Work-life balance can be defined as “The relation between work–family balance and quality of life” (Greenhaus, Collins & Shaw, 2003). The major flaw within this definition is that people have differing perspectives on what constitutes a work-family balance in order to achieve quality of life. According to the department of education and employment (2000) work-life balance isn’t just about women juggling a home and family, but also adjusting working patterns so that everyone, regardless of race, age or gender, can find a rhythm that enables them more easily to combine work with their other responsibilities or aspirations.

Changing gender roles have had a huge impact on women’s ability to participate in the formalised labour market. As stated by Australian bureau of statistics, 2008, a range of cultural and economic shifts in recent decades has seen a dramatic increase in the proportion of women participating in the labour force. According to Smith (1995), this has been caused as a result of improved access to a wider range of education, the increase availability of suitable jobs, and improved access to training and retraining. This if further supported by Davidson et al., (2009), who states that social changes (such as birth control), role changes (such as men and women sharing domestic tasks, including child rearing) and increases in the number of childcare facilities have also enabled women more freedom to move into the workforce. According to Census data (ABS, 2008), between 1986 and 2006 the labour force participation rate among women aged 15 years and over in Australia increased from 48% to 58%. This increase has placed demands on organisations to provide career opportunities, equal pay, promotion prospects and family-responsive policies and practices without discrimination (Davidson et al., 2009). Another of these demands is paid maternity leave, which is an ongoing debate in Australia. According to Maggie May (guest speaker) despite the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s recommendation in December 2002 for a national paid maternity leave scheme for Australia, no such scheme has yet been introduced and the concept remains contested socially, politically and industrially. Despite various legislation currently in place, such as anti-discrimination legislations and equal employment opportunity acts, according to Lingard and Dainty (2006) & Doherty (2004), these are still current issues for working women and have had significant implications for Australian managers, because many organisations are still seen to systematically discriminate against women. One of the reasons cited for women’s low representation in management is the ‘glass ceiling,’ which keeps women’s numbers concentrated in the lower levels of organisations (Australian Industrial Relations Commission, 2008). It describes a barrier so subtle that it is hard to prove, yet strong enough to prevent women from working into top management positions (Davidson et al., 2009). From this research we can see that current legislation, government policies and incentives that are currently in place are not entirely...
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