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The work/family issue and the organisation mediation between institutional pressures and practice: companies attitudes with regard to paternity leave


Since the mid-nineties the 'work-family challenge' has become particularly prominent in Europe. This rise of interest is connected to contemporary socio-economic transformations such as the growth of flexible working hours, fonisation of the labour market, intensification of work practices, mobility of the labour force, changing family composition and structure, and the ageing population. The relationship between the worlds of employment and family/private life is becoming a major issue for many people who have to 'juggle' with competing professional, domestic and other needs. This has been reflected in the institutional context in many countries, which is changing in favour of implementation of family-friendly policies and initiatives.

However the whole question of the work-family balance is one, which concerns not only the 'individual jugglers' and public policies, but also importantly the world of the enterprise as an organisational mediation between institutional pressures and individual behaviour. Our position is supported by existing literature, which also draws attention to the importance of the organisational context and the relative autonomy of organisations to translate policies into practice.

The overall purpose of this two-year project is to examine company attitudes with regard to paternity leave in Belgium. Since July 2002, new fathers have been entitled to two weeks' paid paternity leave. Nevertheless if men want to take paternity leave they can be discouraged through both over and cover questioning of their commitment to work by employers, managers, supervisors and/or colleagues. One significant barrier to men's leave-taking is workplace climates and organisational dynamics. A central objective of this proposal is to improve our knowledge of organisational attitudes and to explain why some organisations appear to be more "father-friendly" than others.

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