Public sector austerity cuts in Britain and the changing discourse of work-life balance

Lewis, Suzan, Anderson, Deirdre, Lyonette, Clare , Payne, Nicola, Wood, Stephen and , (2017) Public sector austerity cuts in Britain and the changing discourse of work-life balance. Work, Employment and Society, 31 (4). pp. 586-604. ISSN 0950-0170

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The relative importance of economic and other motives for employers to provide support for work- life balance (WLB) is debated within different literatures. However, discourses of WLB can be sensitive to changing economic contexts. This article draws on in-depth interviews with senior HR professionals in British public sector organisations to examine shifting discourses of WLB in an austerity context. Three main discourses were identified: WLB practices as organisationally embedded amid financial pressures, WLB practices as a strategy for managing financial pressures and WLB as a personal responsibility. Despite a discourse of mutual benefits to employee and employer underpinning all three discourses, there is a distinct shift towards greater emphasis on economic rather than institutional interests of employers during austerity, accompanied by discursive processes of fixing, stretching, shrinking and bending understandings of WLB. The reconstructed meaning of WLB raises concerns about its continued relevance to its original espoused purpose.

Keywords:austerity, discourse, flexible working, human resource management, work-life balance
Subjects:N Business and Administrative studies > N200 Management studies
Divisions:Lincoln International Business School
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ID Code:29242
Deposited On:31 Oct 2017 13:22

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