Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations (Online)

Employee Opinion on Work-Family Benefits: Evidence from the U.S

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations (Online)

Employee Opinion on Work-Family Benefits: Evidence from the U.S

Article excerpt


We examine employee views on employer assistance for employees' work-family issues and the effect on two measures of employee global attitude towards the employer: job satisfaction and employee attitude. We use data from the 2002 National Study of the Changing Workforce, a nationally representative sample of 2,451 waged and salaried U.S. workers and a hierarchical multiple regression analysis to test for mediating effects of supervisor support and workplace culture. A negative view of an employer's efforts to assist employees with work-family issues results in lower levels of job satisfaction and worsens employee attitude. Supervisor and coworker support moderated the negative effect of employee opinion of a company's work-life involvement on employee attitude, although the support had no effect on mediating the effect of the negative opinion on job satisfaction.

KEYWORDS: work-family benefits; workplace policies; employee attitudes


A subtle shift in demographics in the American workplace has translated into what appears to be, at least according to the popular press in the United States, a "backlash" against familyfriendly policies (Allerton, 2000). The number of unmarried and single U.S. residents increased by 3.3 percent between 2005 and 2006 from 89 to 92 million individuals, or 42 percent of all adults. 60 percent of those individuals had never been married, 25 percent were divorced and 15 percent were widowed (Wells, 2007). In 2000, less than one third of all households in the US had children under the age of 18 living in them (Popenoe, 2007). This was down from a half in 1960 and is projected to drop to a quarter in the coming years (ibid.). These demographic changes have fueled a growing number of advocacy organisations promoting the rights of single, unmarried, and/or childless individuals about what they perceive as unfair treatment in society on behalf of the government and, in particular, employers.1 According to these groups, childless single employees "feel put upon, taken for granted and exploited - whether because of fewer benefits, less compensation, longer hours, mandatory overtime, or less flexible schedules or leaves - by married and child-rearing coworkers" (Wells, 2007, p. 37).

In the U.S. popular press, much has been made of worker dissatisfaction with family-friendly workplace benefits. Bella DePaulo (2006) annotates experiences and complaints from single employees about perceived work inequities on her blog and in her book Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. In her book, The Baby Boon: How Family-Friendly America Cheats the Childless, Elinor Burkett (2000) argues that childless workers earn less money and receive fewer benefits than their coworkers who are parents. This translates into a growing number of workers without young children who are resentful because they believe they must cover for the minority of workers with young children (Poe, 2000). Jerry Steinberg, the founder of No Kidding!, a Canadianbased association for the childless with more than 40 chapters in North America, claims that "the child-burdened work less and are paid the same, or more, and we're tired of it" (Poe, 2000, p. 79). Survey results from the firm Adecco USA of Melville, N. Y. found that while employees admired working parents' "ability to do it all," 36 percent reported that flexibility at work negatively affected team dynamics and 31 percent claimed that employee morale suffered (Wells, 2007). From that same survey, 59 percent of working men between the age of 35 and 44 said that flexibility for working mothers caused resentment among coworkers (Wells, 2007). Lisa Belkin of the New York Times chimed in recently on the profitability of family friendly policies, reporting that in this recession some companies have begun to cut costs by eliminating their flexibility policies (2009).

To some extent, the dissatisfaction appears misplaced, given the U. …

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