Fathers and work‐life balance in France and the UK: policy and practice

Abigail Gregory (School of Languages, Centre for Social Research, University of Salford, Salford, UK)
Susan Milner (Department of European Studies and Modern Languages, University of Bath, Bath, UK)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Publication date: 1 March 2011

Abstract

Purpose

This paper seeks to focus on the role of organizations in mediating the impact of national work‐life balance (WLB) policy on employees, in particular fathers.

Design/methodology/approach

It presents existing research about WLB policy implementation in organizations as well as the findings of empirical work in insurance and social work in France and the UK (questionnaire survey, case study analysis, interviews with national and sector‐level trade union officials).

Findings

These indicate that fathers' take‐up of WLB policies is the outcome of a complex dynamic between national fatherhood regimes, organizational and sector characteristics and the individual employee. They suggest that fathers tend to use WLB measures to spend time with their families where measures increase their sense of entitlement (state policies of paternity leave) or where measures offer non‐gendered flexibility (reduced working time/organizational systems of flexi‐time). In line with other studies it also finds that fathers extensively use informal flexibility where this is available (individual agency).

Practical implications

These findings have implications for the way WLB policies are framed at national and organizational level. At national level they indicate that policies work best when they give fathers a sense of entitlement, by giving specific rights linked to fatherhood (e.g. paternity leave or “daddy month”‐type arrangements), and or by providing universal rights (e.g. to reduced working time and/or flexible working time); however, where measures are linked to childcare they are often framed as mothers' rights when translated to the organizational level. The research also shows that informal flexibility is used and valued by fathers within organizations, but that such informal arrangements are highly subject to local variation and intermediation by line managers and co‐workers; hence, for effective and even coverage they would need to be backed up by formal rights.

Originality/value

Cross‐national comparative research into WLB policy and practice at national and organizational level is very rare. The empirical work presented in this paper, although exploratory, makes a significant contribution to our understanding of WLB policy and practice, particularly as it relates to fathers.

Keywords

Citation

Gregory, A. and Milner, S. (2011), "Fathers and work‐life balance in France and the UK: policy and practice", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 31 No. 1/2, pp. 34-52. https://doi.org/10.1108/01443331111104797

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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