Social partners agree on definition for quality of working life
In preparation for major negotiations on a national interprofessional agreement due to take place on 21 September 2012, French social partners have agreed a common definition of the quality of working life. As a result, the debate will be focused on an agreed list of eight indicators. These include a commitment at all levels to take into account issues in a worker’s personal life, ensuring employees’ voices are heard, and offering a route to personal development.
Discussion on quality of working life indicators
Between March and June 2012, the social partners from employers’ associations and trade unions took part in deliberations organised by the French National Agency for the Improvement of Working Conditions (Anact) on Quality of Life at Work, in preparation for negotiations on a new national interprofessional agreement due to begin in September 2012.
During a final meeting on 5 June 2012, the participants agreed that quality of working life depended both on the individual employee and the collective work organisation.
The closing communiqué (in French, 424Kb PDF) argued that when work organisation is well-planned, it can have a positive impact on employees’ work–life balance as well as on a company’s organisational performance. Therefore, the definition, implementation and evaluation of the improvement of the quality of working life should be at the centre of social dialogue and be an integral part of corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Furthermore, the social partners acknowledged the existing literature on a range of issues around quality of work that should form the basis of any further discussion. An integrated approach to the quality of working life, it is argued, goes beyond improving employees’ well-being or respecting their fundamental rights, but would, first and foremost, focus on changing existing practice in the employment relationship.
Unions and employers agree that the perception of the quality of working life mainly depends on working conditions, and whether employees are able to express their opinions and have an impact on job content. Its improvement is seen as an ongoing process and conditions for implementation might differ between workplaces.
Agreement reached on eight indicators
The following list of eight indicators summarises the core of the concept of quality of working life agreed between the social partners.
Quality of commitment at all levels of the company
Personal life issues of the employees should be taken into account by management, social partners and, if applicable, the regional administration. Moreover, male and female employees at all levels of the company should be given the opportunity to participate in working life.
Quality of shared information on the company
Employees should be well informed on issues around:
- the economic situation of the company;
- its strategic orientation;
- the values that guide the company, perhaps as expressed in a ‘company charter’, including those that concern its relationship with the environment;
- the characteristics of the workforce.
Quality of labour and social relations
The following points are considered to be of major importance:
- acknowledgement of work achieved;
- wage equality between men and women;
- respect and attention for employees;
- implementation of mechanisms for dialogue between employer and employees;
- provision of information that takes into account issues and problems of social relations;
- social dialogue at different levels such as in the workplace, at company level and within the group;
- the role of employee participation bodies;
- conditions for employee participation in company decision-making.
Quality of job content
The quality of job content mainly depends on:
- job autonomy;
- the variety of tasks;
- the range of responsibilities;
- the development of skills;
- possibilities for employees to express their opinions;
- meaningful tasks.
Quality of the workplace environment
This would include:
- safety at work;
- having a user-friendly workplace environment.
Quality of work organisation
This would include:
- good leadership;
- company support in finding solutions to problems;
- the role and support of line management;
- progress orientation;
- the anticipation of workload to maximise work efficiency;
- becoming ‘learning organisations’;
- the impact of the introduction of new information and communication technologies, in particular the boundaries between work and personal time with the use of remote access to emails and the provision of work mobile phones;
- anticipation of the impact of changes and restructuring on employment and quality of working life.
Opportunities for personal development
This would include:
- access to training;
- acquisition of experience;
- skills development;
- career development and equal career development opportunities for men and women;
- equal access for men and women to management positions;
- fighting prejudices and stereotypes on motherhood and fatherhood;
- taking diversity into account.
Opportunities for work–life balance
This would include:
- the integration of parenthood into career and life planning;
- increased attention to the compatibility of professional and private life;
- working hours and work rhythm;
- increased attention to time spent on social activities;
- access to transport;
- access to services.
Social partners have drafted a comprehensive list of indicators for the improvement of the quality of working life, but the formulation of many of the items seems relatively vague. It remains to be seen to what extent employers and unions can put these points into practice during the negotiations due to start in September.
Sebastian Schulze-Marmeling, IRShare