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UC research into better supporting New Zealand low-wage work

UC research into better supporting New Zealand low-wage workers

May 20, 2014

New Zealand’s work-family law favours middle class mothers, University of Canterbury business lecturer Associate Professor Annick Masselot says.

However, work-family conflict was not the sole prerogative of middle class women. Low-wage workers (men and women) often had demanding family responsibilities which could make managing a job and family extremely challenging, she says.

The law on work-life reconciliation in New Zealand has mostly concentrated on addressing the issues faced by professional women until now. However, there is no reason why such law and legal institutions should only be utilised by some women.

``A whole range of workers need to be able to access provisions to facilitate work and family obligations. This project looks at the under-use of the existing work-family legal institutions and aim to broaden the use of the law to make it more effective for a whole range of people.

``Our research project is not saying that women - professional women or middle class women - have achieved a balance between work and family obligations either. It remains a struggle for them and the law needs to be improved for them and for others so that they can manage.

``Legal institutions designed to facilitate the reconciliation of work and family life in New Zealand have not been holistically designed or evaluated in terms of their ability to support low-wage workers in remaining in work.’’

The Low Wage Workers Project is a joint initiative involving the University of Canterbury’s Associate Professor Masselot and Dr Sanna Malinen and Victoria University researcher Dr Amanda Reilly. They will investigate how legal institutions can better support low-wage workers in work-family reconciliation.

Their goal is to generate practical recommendations both for law reform and on how low-wage workers can be better supported within the existing framework.

``Research shows that low-wage workers with family responsibilities are not a homogenous group. One size does not fit all. While some recommendations may be general, others have to be tailored to specific groups.

``Women and Maori are over represented in the low-wage worker category and often this is related to their family care responsibilities. Older people are also a growing group of low wage workers who may also be caring for grandchildren and / or partners.

``Consideration must also be given to employers’ needs for stable performance levels. Social and demographic changes including increasing female employment rates, the ageing population, and evolving workplace arrangements mean that work-family reconciliation is a problem for a growing number of workers.

``This is a view supported by a range of community groups, unions, employers and employer organisations, and members of the legal profession who have agreed to support the project.

``New Zealand's economic goals include improving employment rates, reducing dependence on benefits and making full use of New Zealand's talent pool. Low wage workers with family responsibilities need, and deserve, improved support so that they can contribute to these goals,’’ Associate Professor Masselot says.


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