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Effort‐reward imbalance, over‐commitment and work‐life conflict: testing an expanded model

Gail Kinman (University of Bedfordshire, Luton, UK)
Fiona Jones (University of Leeds, Leeds, UK)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 28 March 2008




Although the effort‐reward imbalance (ERI) model of job stress has gained support in predicting employee health, it has rarely been examined in the context of the work‐home interface. This study aims to test an expanded ERI model in predicting work‐life conflict (WLC) in university employees. Three hypotheses relating to the ERI are tested. It is also predicted that lower organisational support for work‐life balance, less schedule flexibility and lower levels of separation between work and home life will lead to increased work‐life conflict.


In this cross‐sectional study, 1,108 employees working in UK universities completed questionnaires assessing ERI, WLC, schedule flexibility, employer support and work‐life separation/integration.


Strong main effects of job‐related efforts, rewards and over‐commitment on WLC are found. A significant two‐way interaction (effort×reward) and some evidence for a three‐way interaction effort×reward×over‐commitment) are observed. Perceived schedule flexibility and work‐life integration also make significant contributions to the variance in WLC. The final model explains 66 per cent of criterion variance.

Research limitations/implications

As the study is cross‐sectional, causal relationships cannot be established.

Practical implications

This study extends knowledge of the ERI model as a predictor of WLC. More research is required into ways in which effort‐reward inequity and over‐commitment might threaten work‐life balance, together with the working practices and organisational factors which might modify this threat.


The ERI model has rarely been examined in the context of the work‐home interface. The importance of effort‐reward imbalance and over‐commitment to WLC has been highlighted.



Kinman, G. and Jones, F. (2008), "Effort‐reward imbalance, over‐commitment and work‐life conflict: testing an expanded model", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 23 No. 3, pp. 236-251.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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