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

Article


Lewis, S., Anderson, D., Lyonette, C., Payne, N. and Wood, S. 2017. Public sector austerity cuts in the UK and the changing discourse of work-life balance. Work, Employment and Society. 31 (4), pp. 586-704. https://doi.org/10.1177/0950017016638994
TypeArticle
TitlePublic sector austerity cuts in the UK and the changing discourse of work-life balance
AuthorsLewis, S., Anderson, D., Lyonette, C., Payne, N. and Wood, S.
Abstract

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.

Keywordsausterity, discourse, flexible working, human resource management, work-life balance
LanguageEnglish
PublisherSAGE Publications
JournalWork, Employment and Society
ISSN0950-0170
Publication dates
Online01 May 2016
Print01 Aug 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited04 Mar 2016
Accepted19 Feb 2016
Output statusPublished
Publisher's version
License
Accepted author manuscript
Copyright Statement

Published version: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).
Accepted manuscript Version:: Lewis, S., Anderson, D., Lyonette, C., Payne, N., Wood, S., Public sector austerity cuts in Britain and the changing discourse of work–life balance, Work, employment and society, Vol 31(4), pp. 586 - 704. Copyright © 2016 (The Author(s)). Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1177/0950017016638994
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https://repository.mdx.ac.uk/item/86274

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