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Background and rationale of collective bargaining around work-family issues in Italy: The duality of the business case argument

Egidio Riva (Department of Sociology, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan, Italy)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 5 June 2017




The purpose of this paper is to outline and assess the role of industrial relations in introducing work-family-related policies and investigate the drivers, nature and scope of contract provisions that were bargained in the following domains: flexible working arrangements, leave schemes, care services and other supportive arrangements. Analyses draw on information filed in a unique and restricted access repository, the SEcond-level Collective Bargaining Observatory (OCSEL) held by Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori (CISL), one of the major trade union organizations in Italy.


This paper presents and examines, by means of descriptive statistics and content analysis, available information on 285 company-level agreements around work-family-related issues that were signed in Italy between January 2012 and December 2015, in the aftermath of the great recession.


Work-family issues do not seem to be a major bargaining concern. The availability of specific arrangements is mostly limited to the domain of working time flexibility and it is not quite innovative in its contents. Besides, there is little evidence that the mutual gains rationale is embedded in collective bargaining in the field. However, mature and well-established labour relations result in more innovative and strategic company-level bargaining that is also conducive to work-family-related arrangements.

Research limitations/implications

The sample is not representative. Thus, the results obtained in this study cannot be extended to make predictions and conclusions about the population of collective agreements negotiated and signed in Italian companies in the period under scrutiny.


Research on the industrial relations context that lies behind the design and implementation of work-family workplace arrangements is still limited. Furthermore, the evidence is inconclusive. This manuscript intends to address this research gap and provide a much more nuanced understanding.



The research leading to these results has received support under the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme (FP7/2013-2017) under Grant Agreement No. 312691, InGRID – Inclusive Growth Research Infrastructure Diffusion. The author is grateful to Anna Rosa Munno and Uliano Stendardi for their help in providing access to data.


Riva, E. (2017), "Background and rationale of collective bargaining around work-family issues in Italy: The duality of the business case argument", Employee Relations, Vol. 39 No. 4, pp. 459-474.



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