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Trade Unions and Work-life Balance: Changing Times in France and the UK?


  • Abigail Gregory
  • Susan Milner


The mixed empirical findings to date have indicated that some, but not all, unions in industrialized countries are actively involved in campaigning and bargaining around work-life balance (WLB) issues, as part of a modernization agenda linked to feminization and to 'positive flexibility'. This article seeks to identify factors that might encourage or inhibit trade unions from involvement in WLB issues, within a cross-national comparative perspective focusing on two countries (France and the UK) that have contrasting working time regimes and approaches to WLB. It draws on original research carried out in two sectors - insurance and social work - in these two countries. The article links the emergence of union WLB programmes and bargaining agendas to gender-equality concerns within the union and to the gender composition of the sector, as well as to the working time regime, including the mode of action, partnership being a significant corollary of WLB campaigning in the UK. We find support for the modernization thesis in the UK, particularly in the public sector, but within severe constraints defined by employer initiative. Copyright (c) Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2009.

Suggested Citation

  • Abigail Gregory & Susan Milner, 2009. "Trade Unions and Work-life Balance: Changing Times in France and the UK?," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 47(1), pages 122-146, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:brjirl:v:47:y:2009:i:1:p:122-146

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John W. Budd & Karen Mumford, 2004. "Trade Unions and Family-Friendly Policies in Britain," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 57(2), pages 204-222, January.
    2. Jacqueline Laufer, 1998. "Equal Opportunity between Men and Women: The Case of France," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 4(1), pages 53-69.
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    Cited by:

    1. Leigh Clark & Sherry Roberts, 2010. "Employer’s Use of Social Networking Sites: A Socially Irresponsible Practice," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 95(4), pages 507-525, September.
    2. Jon C. Messenger & Nikhil Ray, 2015. "The ‘deconstruction’ of part-time work," Chapters,in: Labour Markets, Institutions and Inequality, chapter 7, pages 184-208 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. Sangheon Lee & Deirdre McCann, 2011. "Negotiating Working Time in Fragmented Labour Markets: Realizing the Promise of ‘Regulated Flexibility’," Chapters,in: The Role of Collective Bargaining in the Global Economy, chapter 3 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. Berg, Peter & Kossek, Ellen Ernst & Baird, Marian & Block, Richard N., 2013. "Collective bargaining and public policy: Pathways to work-family policy adoption in Australia and the United States," European Management Journal, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 495-504.

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