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Human Resource Policy: Understanding the Importance of Work-Life-Balance to Male Employees

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Human Resource Policy: Understanding the Importance of Work-Life-Balance to Male Employees

Introduction

Work-life-balance (also known as WLB) has become a topic with increasing interest in today's human resource management, academic literature and public disclosure. However few of the articles are focusing on male employees' work-life-balance (Joanna Hughes, Nikos Bozionelos, 2007). As we can see today, women are certainly playing an increasing significant role in workforce than ever before, which means men are going to take responsibilities coming from both work and family gradually. Therefore, often seen as oriented towards women, work-life-balance policy now has increasing requirement from men as well. This research article brings up the question of whether work-life-balance policy is necessary for male employees and possible approaches for future improvement.

Background of work-life-balance policy

Work-life-balance is not a fleeting trend. It is not even a new idea. As early as 1802, The Factory Acts in UK started to limit working hours for women and children. While in US, it took 50 years to reach the 8 hours working day. Until 1938, The Fair Labor Standards Act firstly started to establish 40-hour week in US. In 1960s, studies started to draw attention on the relationship between work and family roles (Lewis and Cooper, 2005, p. 9). However they mainly focused on female employees and their work-family stress. In late 1970s, since "work-family balance" did not include the rights of non-parent employees, the expression of "work-life balance" officially came out (Vania Parakati, 2010). Nowadays, work-life-balance has been defined as "the relationship between the institutional and cultural times and spaces of work and non-work in societies where income is predominantly generated and distributed through labor markets" (Felstead A., Jewson N., Phizacklea A. and Walters S., 2002, p. 56). Nevertheless, even though the importance of work-life-balance is widely acknowledged, it is not enforced by law so far (Heather M. Lauzun, Valerie J. Morganson, Debra A. Major, and Arlene P. Green, 2010).

Current situation of male employees' work-life-balance

First of all, currently work-life-balance policy is mostly benefiting female employees in general. According to the article written by Hardy and Adnett (2002), work-life-balance policies implicitly target women by focusing on child care, parental leave and part-time work. For example, in the Europe, one third of female employees work part-time which is 5 times more than men (Hardy and Adnett, 2002).

Moreover, empirical studies found that male employees who took parental leave of absence might get worse performance appraisals comparing to their counterparts (Adam B. Butler, Amie Skattebo, 2004). It was because managers might perceive those male employees as less committed to the organization, hence lower rating of managerial potential and promotability.

In summary of the discussion above, male employees either "do not" or "dare not" benefit from work-life-balance policies today. However, it is definitely essential for HR mangers to solve this gender issue in terms of WLB policy. Why? In the following, I will address this question with three aspects.

Research and Analysis

Why do we care about work-life-balance of male employees? Why is it important to ensure male employees to benefit from work-life-balance policies? Through my research, I came up with 3 key points to answer these questions.

Male employees have increasing responsibility in family.

As mentioned above, the gender difference in today's workforce is changing gradually. For instance, in 1970, less than half of adult women were in the labor force. Today that figure is almost 60 percent. For mothers of children under 18, it is even higher, 71 percent, and for women with a college education, it is 80 percent (Myra Strober, 2010). Myra (2010) argued that: "Males are no longer the breadwinners and females are no longer the caretakers of child and elderly." Then question is: who is going to take care of family when woman is out for work? Apparently except for the idea of hiring someone else, which may bring some financial issues, most of families will choose to allocate more housework to men. According to Statistics Canada (2006), from 1985 to 2005, the participation of housework for men increased from 54% to 69%. Changes in the daily participation rate for core housework, that is, meal preparation, meal clean-up, indoor cleaning, and laundry, were the most noticeable, from 40% to 59%. Note that it doesn't mean the point of work-life-balance to men is doing housework. However it shows that in dual-earner family, which is defined as "a family in which both partners are

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