Perceived Impacts of Family Leave Policy: Do Organizational Factors Matter?

Article excerpt

A pressing public management concern, as we move into the 21st century, is the ability of employees to balance their commitments to both work and family. Despite some recent studies that point toward the importance of organizational culture and management support for family leave policy, a significant gap remains in our understanding of the contextual and organizational factors that contribute to the success or failure of such a policy in public organizations. How do organizational factors affect the implementation of family leave policy? This case study finds that work units' support and teamwork management are associated with employee perceptions regarding the positive impacts of family leave on organizational commitment, work satisfaction, reduced work stress, and productivity. In addition, the results of stakeholder interviews show that supervisors' support and personnel administrators' commitments to family leave policy facilitate the implementation of family leave. A discussion of the implications of the findings from this study for public personnel management and organizational leadership concludes the paper.

A pressing public management concern, as we move into the 21st century, is the ability of employees to balance their commitments to both work and family.[1] Several recent studies have emphasized that organizational performance depends, in part, on the development and implementation of organizational policies that help employees reduce the conflicts between work and family obligations.[2] Family leave policy is one of the most common of such measures utilized in both private and public organizations. Despite some recent studies that point toward the importance of organizational culture and management support for family leave policy, a significant gap remains in our understanding of the impact of family leave policy on employees and the contextual and organizational factors that contribute to the success or failure of such a policy in public organizations.[3]

How do employees perceive the impact of family leave policy on their lives in the workplace and at home? What are the characteristics of organizations that successfully implement family leave policies? In this study, several organizational factors are proposed as target research dimensions of the implementation of family leave policy. How do organizational factors affect employee perceptions regarding the impact of family leave policy on employees and their workplaces? How do major stakeholders, such as managers, supervisors, and personnel administrators, perceive the relationships between organizational factors and family leave implementation? The purpose of this article is to explore these questions. The study focuses on the Department of Social Services (DSS) in New York State (NYS), because it is at the forefront in providing family-related benefits, including maternity leave, paternity leave, family sick leave, and on-site child care to support both female and male state employees' family responsibilities. Furthermore, at DSS, the proportions of female and male employees are fairly equal at 53.2 percent and 46.8 percent respectively. The entitlement under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)[4] of 1993 has provided greater options for family leave benefits in DSS.

This article begins with an overview of the literature related to organizational factors and the implementation of family leave policy in organizations. It then proposes several hypotheses related to the relationships between organizational factors and the perceived impact of family leave policy on employees and their workplaces. A brief discussion follows on the research methods and data-collection procedures employed in the study. Finally, the study tests the hypotheses developed by conducting several multiple-regression models and analyzes the results of in-depth interviews. A discussion of the implications of the findings from this study for public personnel management and family leave policy concludes the paper. …

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