Permanent part-time work : the perspectives of managers in two New Zealand government departments : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Business Studies at Massey University

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Massey University
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This study explores the experiences of managers within two New Zealand government departments with permanent part-time work. The research strategy incorporates an extensive literature review and an exploratory, qualitative empirical study. The literature review identifies labour demand and supply factors which influence the use of part-time work; examines theoretical perspectives on reasons for its structure as permanent or casual work; and identifies organisational context factors, personal factors, and operating and cost factors which influence managers' decisions on use. Existing studies consistently report strong operating and cost advantages arising from the use of permanent part-time work. In spite of this, and in spite of the reported needs of a growing proportion of the workforce, relatively few organisations have institutionalised permanent part-time work options. Much of the literature thus focuses on documenting the relatively poor conditions of part-time workers, or on prescribing a widening of permanent part-time work opportunities. Very little research has considered permanent part-time work from the manager's perspective. The present study therefore sets out to build on the handful of studies which have done so. The empirical part of this study involved in-depth interviews with 24 managers in the Department of Social Welfare and the Inland Revenue Department, and a nominee for the State Services Commissioner. Managers at each level of the hierarchy in the two departments, and in both line and staff positions, were included. Factors influencing the managers' use and experience of permanent part-time work were identified and explored. Models of the organisational use of permanent part-time work and of the managerial decision process were generated. In contrast to the major reported management studies, where permanent part-time work was usually initiated by managers to address specific operating or cost needs of organisations, in this study, use was usually initiated by staff requests for reduced hours of work. The staff-driven process of use arose because of permanent part-time work policy and related policies on Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO). In fact, due to staff reductions and to past institutional rigidities, managers had been largely constrained from initiating permanent part-time positions to address operating needs. Where they had used permanent part-time staff, managers reported them to be highly productive, and stated that their use had almost always contributed positively to organisational objectives. In those instances where it had not, the difficulty could be traced to teething problems in implementing a form of work which was not as yet well understood, rather than to any intrinsic characteristic of permanent part-time work. These observations suggest that the potential of permanent part-time work to enhance organisational efficiency has been largely unexplored in the organisations studied. They may also suggest that managers can simultaneously pursue goals of operating and cost efficiency, and goals of "good employer" practice in relation to permanent part-time work. Further, they may indicate that even in the absence of pressing operating needs, permanent part-time work can be introduced successfully through policy changes.
New Zealand Women, Employment, New Zealand Job sharing, Part-time employment, Women in the civil service