Family-friendly policies more likely where employers consult unions

Family-friendly and equal opportunity policies are more likely to be adopted by organisations that consult or negotiate with unions, according to a report by Warwick Business School and Cass Business School.


The Unions, joint regulation and workplace equality policy and practice in Britain paper, which surveyed 2,295 UK workplaces, was published in the journal Work, Employment and Society by Kim Hoque (pictured), professor of HR management at Warwick Business School and Nicholas Bacon, professor of HR management at Cass Business School.

It argued that, to meet its 2010 election pledge to make Britain the most family-friendly country in Europe, the government should encourage employers to engage in genuine joint decision-making over equality policy via meaningful consultation or negotiation with unions.

The research found that just 13% of the workplaces surveyed consulted or negotiated with unions when deciding family friendly or equal opportunity issues, but it also found that practices to tackle gender, race, disability and age inequalities were more widespread in these organisations.

The review of pay rates was also more common in organisations that consulted or negotiated with unions, while family-friendly practices, such as job-sharing, the availability of flexi-time, workplace nurseries and help with the cost of childcare, leave for carers of older adults and maternity leave at the full rate of pay, were also more widely adopted.

Hoque said: “The Conservatives made a pledge to improve family-friendly practices at work and our research has shown unions can help achieve this.

“This research shows that if the government encouraged employers to engage with unions when determining equality policy it would bring major benefits.

“It found that, when unions are consulted or involved in negotiations at an organisation, the wider the range of equal opportunity procedures and family-friendly practices are put in place.

“The onus is not just on employers to engage with unions, however, but also for unions to ensure that they seek to promote equality in their dealings with employers.

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“It is essential that unions seek to ensure equality is included on the bargaining agenda with employers, and where consultation over equality does not occur, this is something they should press for.

“Should they do so, this may enable them to have a significant influence on the equality practices employers subsequently adopt.”