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Examining work-family practice use and employee attitudes in a New Zealand local government organisation

Work-family practices have proliferated in response to major changes in the workplace, including the increased participation rates of women and mothers, the rise in dual-career families and single parent families, and growth in the elderly population. These changes are seen as providing employees help in balancing work and family commitments. Work-family policies are purported to offer benefits to both employers and employees, for example reduced turnover, increased organisational commitment and greater job satisfaction. The major focus of the present study was employee use of multiple work-family policies, as the majority of the work-family literature focuses upon single practices. The present study sought to examine the relationship between work-family practice use and work-family conflict, to determine whether work-family practices link with conflict. Also, in response to a failure of the literature in explaining the link between work-family policy use and employee attitudes, the present study used social exchange theory and the norm of reciprocity to better explain the relationship. The present study also use a set of organisational justice theories to examine perceptions of the fairness of work-family policies, and the link these perceptions may have with general employee attitudes. Also, for exploring work-family backlash, where the distribution of rewards suggests work-family non-users may hold negative attitudes compared to users. A single local government organisation, with 203 employees, was the focus of this study. Surveys were distributed at two distinct time periods to reduce common method variance. A total of 100 paired survey responses were received. Findings supported a positive relationship between work-family practices and conflict between work and home, in both directions. Additionally, work → family conflict was associated with decreased job satisfaction and increased work strain. Findings also indicated that work-family practice use predicted work-family specific attitudes but not attitudes towards the job and organisation. Work-family practice use and perceived benefits of work-family programmes predicted fairness perceptions, however, fairness perceptions failed to predict attitudes towards the organisation and job. Lastly, there was no evidence of a work-family backlash, with users and non-users holding similar attitudes towards the work-family programmes, organisation and job. Implications include the need for examining the causal nature of the work-family practice and conflict relationship, caution regarding the assumption that work-family policies are automatically beneficial, and encouragement for organisations to proactively test their work-family programmes. Lastly, the lack of a work-family backlash suggests media sensationalism, and, therefore, as non-users are not likely to hold negative attitudes towards the organisation, work-family backlash should not be seen as discouraging organisational adoption of work-family programmes. Contributions of this research include the examination of multiple work-family practices, which is rare, and the elucidation of the work-family conflict – work-family practice use relationship, which is poorly understood. Theorising the influence that work-family practices have upon employee attitudes is another contribution. While the findings indicated no significant link between general attitudes and practice use, this might highlight a methodological limitation in examining practice use, rather than practice value or frequency of use. Lastly, this thesis indicates that work-family practices do link in multiple ways with employee attitudes under multiple theoretical approaches.
Type of thesis
Haar, J. M. (2002). Examining work-family practice use and employee attitudes in a New Zealand local government organisation (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14043
The University of Waikato
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